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The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement

3.8 212
by Amy Tan, Nancy Wu (Read by), Joyce Bean (Read by)

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Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement is a sweeping, evocative epic of two women’s intertwined fates and their search for identity, that moves from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village.

Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement resurrects pivotal


Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement is a sweeping, evocative epic of two women’s intertwined fates and their search for identity, that moves from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village.

Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement resurrects pivotal episodes in history: from the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty, to the rise of the Republic, the explosive growth of lucrative foreign trade and anti-foreign sentiment, to the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreign “Shanghailanders” living in the International Settlement, both erased by World War II.

A deeply evocative narrative about the profound connections between mothers and daughters, The Valley of Amazement returns readers to the compelling territory of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic insight and humor, she conjures a story of inherited trauma, desire and deception, and the power and stubbornness of love.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Lesley Downer
Written in Tan's characteristically economical and matter-of-fact style, The Valley of Amazement is filled with memorably idiosyncratic characters. And its array of colorful multilayered stories is given further depth by Tan's affecting depictions of mothers and daughters. Here are strong women struggling to survive all that life has to throw at them, created by a writer skilled at evoking the roil of emotions and mad exploits they experience when they follow their hearts.
Publishers Weekly
In her first novel since 2005’s Saving Fish from Drowning, Tan again explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, control and submission, tradition and new beginnings. Jumping from bustling Shanghai to an isolated village in rural China to San Francisco at the turn of the 19th century, the epic story follows three generations of women pulled apart by outside forces. The main focus is Violet, once a virgin courtesan in one of the most reputable houses in Shanghai, who faces a series of crippling setbacks: the death of her first husband from Spanish influenza, a second marriage to an abusive scam artist, and the abduction of her infant daughter, Flora. In a series of flashbacks toward the book’s end, Violet’s American mother, Lulu, is revealed to have suffered a similar and equally disturbing fate two decades earlier. The choice to cram the truth behind Lulu’s sexually promiscuous adolescence in San Francisco, her life as a madam in Shanghai, and Violet’s reunion with a grown Flora into the last 150 pages makes the story unnecessarily confusing. Nonetheless, Tan’s mastery of the lavish world of courtesans and Chinese customs continues to transport. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Nov.)
Publishers Weekly - Audio
In Tan’s novel, Violet Minturn, the daughter of the American madam of the premiere courtesan house in Shanghai, experiences life quite differently from other children. Her privileged lifestyle provides opportunities, but like her mother before her, Violet must grapple with history, lovers, and family life. In this audio edition, the use of three narrators is well executed. Each reader provides a strong vocal representation of the characters. Although Tan’s performance is solid, she sometimes doesn’t have the skill and flair demonstrated by Wu and Bean, who offer up more nuanced readings. Still, Tan’s performance more than does justice to her novel and its characters. An Ecco hardcover. (Nov.)
“Fans will recognize signature Tan themes: mother-daughter relationships, clashes between cultures… threads of hmor and emotional insight make Violet’s struggle to survive, and ultimately forgive, a journey worth sharing.”
“Amy Tan’s latest novel is an engrossing, multigenerational saga....grounded by Tan’s ability to bring tragically flawed characters and exotic locales to vivid life.”
Lisa See
“It’s been a long eight years since Amy Tan’s last novel, but THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT proves that good things—breathtaking things—come to those who wait. [...] It’s wonderful to be back in Amy’s magical and amazing world.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Tan’s prodigious, sumptuously descriptive, historically grounded, sexually candid, and elaborately plotted novel counters violence, exploitation, betrayal, and tragic cultural divides with beauty, wit, and transcendent friendship between women.”
Newsday (Fall Preview)
The author of The Joy Luck Club and The Hundred Secret Senses can deliver a sweeping family saga like nobody else.”
Mary Pearson
“Amy Tan is one of our blackest-belted scriveners, and this is her masterwork.”
Real Simple
Fans of Tan’s previous works (including The Joy Luck Club) will rejoice when they get their hands on this book.
Romantic Times
“Tan’s beautiful, seamless prose presents fans with a true sense of time and place, catching them up in the heartbreaking tragedy of the plot… Tan’s creativity is always a force, and in this epic tale her ability to captivate shines.”
Financial Times
“[Tan] is a gifted storyteller… This is one writer’s particular idiom and vision of the world - and within that she offers us a rich cast of characters who both repel and compel.”
More magazine
“[Tan’s] fans will appreciate the book’s multigenerational narrative and compelling look at a society in which men held the power but women gave each other strength.”
New York Times Book Review
“Here are strong women struggling to survive all that life has thrown at them, created by a writer skilled at evoking the roil of emotions and made exploits they experience when they follow their hearts.”
Entertainment Weekly
“[Tan] still sweeps you up in the wildly changing fortunes of a whip-smart courtesan.”
Mary Karr
“Amy Tan is one of our blackest-belted scriveners, and this is her masterwork.”
USA Today
“This is an Amy Tan novel, so its heart is the push-pull of mother-daughter relationships… The journey with Violet, her mother and her daughter is one of separate winding paths, each woman struggling to reach the light.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“In her new novel, Tan ditches her magic realist fugues and enters a brutal landscape of Shanghai courtesans, exploring it with new depths of tenderness and pain.”
Associated Press Staff
“Tan brings to life a world with which few are familiar. And it’s fascinating. Her descriptions of the countryside, of the houses, of the lifestyle and the customers are well-drawn and multi-layered. Her characters are brought to life as three-dimensional, complicated people.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“With THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT (Ecco), Amy Tan reaffirms her reputation as a master storyteller, creating intriguing settings, unforgettable characters, and twisty plotlines.”
“[THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT is] akin to her earlier work, yet more sophisticated, and a fine reminder that Amy Tan is herself a master of illusion, and one of the best storytellers around.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Amy tan creates another stunning portrait of mothers and daughters.”
New York Daily News
“[Tan is] an accomplished storyteller… the underlying appeal of this book is the weave she makes of the three generations of Minturn women…struggling to accept their fate and each other.”
Shelf Awareness
“A feast of a novel… Tan deftly draws the reader along as she explores the nature of identity, the joys and pitfalls of love, the ripple effects of the choices we make and the role of fate in our lives.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“With THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT (Ecco), Amy Tan reaffirms her reputation as a master storyteller, creating intriguing settings, unforgettable characters, and twisty plotlines.”
San Francisco Book Review
“THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT is an engrossing read that effortlessly draws you in and captures both the sweet taste of acceptance and the bitter taste of disappointment and resentment with an almost painful accuracy… a compelling and emotional read.”
Boston Globe
“She has created such an enticing portrait of Shanghai that she makes us nostalgic for a city we can never know.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Amy Tan’s new novel THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT is a long and luxurious read, offering riches on almost every page… Tan laces her story with colorful characters… a little comedy, enough tragedy, and plenty of passion and historical detail.”
Tampa Bay Times
“[THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT] combines vivid historical details and epic sweep across several decades and two continents with intimate portraits of flawed but engaging women whose resourcefulness and courage are sometimes astounding.”
“Vivid, compassionate, and expertly done… Tan has crafted characters so realistic they seem to breathe and a tense world that will keep readers on the edge of their seats for all 589 pages.”
Miami Herald
“Tan hasn’t written a new novel in eight years but THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT was worth the wait.”
Seattle Times
“Tan has created a vivid work of literature, full of deftly drawn and colorful characters, exploring the idea that in a world of grief and cruelty, where a woman’s fate is not hers - or her mother’s - to determine, what she can keep is her self.”
Northwest Asian Weekly
“The deeply evocative narrative about the profound connections between mothers and daughters will return readers to the compelling territory of Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Tan’s characteristic insight and humor conjures a story of “inherited trauma, desire and deception, and the power and stubbornness of love.”
Good Housekeeping (online)
“Fans who’ve waited eight years for a new novel by Tan (The Joy Luck Club) can look forward to a lengthy, decades-long soak in Violet’s sentimental and erotic education.”
International Examiner
“Those who have been waiting for Tan’s novel, her first in eight years, will not be disappointed.”
Library Journal - Audio
Tan (The Joy Luck Club) is in familiar territory here as a mother and daughter must battle others—and sometimes each other—to survive and prosper. The story starts in 1897, and the setting shifts between San Francisco and Shanghai. Lucia was born in America and has a daughter, Violet, with a Chinese man. Later, she becomes the owner of a high-end establishment in Shanghai that supplies courtesans to wealthy Easterners and Westerners. Violet is abandoned by her mother and becomes a courtesan herself, though her quest for love seems doomed. The overly detailed descriptions of everything from furniture to clothing to sex acts bogs down the story. Unfortunately, character development is also poorly executed. The multiple narrators—Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean, and Tan—skillfully present the characters as they age and their situations change. VERDICT Those who favor in-depth description and international settings will particularly enjoy. ["This utterly engrossing novel is highly recommended to all readers who appreciate an author's ability to transport them to a new world they will not forget," read the more positive starred review of the Ecco: HarperCollins hc, LJ 8/13.]—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
Tan, who made her name with The Joy Luck Club (1989), blends two favorite settings, Shanghai and San Francisco, in a tale that spans generations. Granted that courtesans and the places that sheltered them were (and in some places still are) culturally significant in East Asia, Tan takes what might seem an unnecessary risk by setting her latest novel in that too-familiar demimonde (Miss Saigon, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.). Tan is a skilled storyteller, capable of working her way into and out of most fictional problems, but the reader will be forgiven a sinking feeling at the scenario with which she opens, featuring "the only white woman who owned a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai." Where are the Boxers when you need them? Said white woman, Lulu Minturn, aka Lulu Mimi, is in Shanghai for a reason--and on that reason hinges a larger conceit, the one embodied by the book's title. She has a daughter, and the daughter, naturally enough, has cause to wonder about her ancestry, if little time to worry overmuch about some of the details, since her mom leaves her to fend for herself, not entirely willingly. The chinoiserie and exoticism aside, Violet makes a tough and compelling character, a sort of female equivalent to Yul Brynner as played by Lucy Liu. The members of the "Cloud Beauties," who give Violet her sentimental education, make an interesting lot themselves, but most of the attention is on Violet and the narrative track that finds her on a parallel journey, literally and figuratively, always haunted by "those damned paintings that had belonged to my mother" and that will eventually reveal their secrets. Tan's story sometimes suffers from longueurs, but the occasional breathless, steamy scene evens the score: "He lifted my hips and my head soared and I lost all my senses except for the one that bound us and could not be pulled apart." A satisfyingly complete, expertly paced yarn.

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, Saving Fish from Drowning, and two children’s books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, which was adapted into a PBS Kids production. Tan was also a coproducer and coscreenwriter of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and her work has been translated into thirty-five languages. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.

Brief Biography

San Francisco, California and New York, New York
Date of Birth:
February 19, 1952
Place of Birth:
Oakland, California
B.A., San Jose State University, 1973; M.A., 1974

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Valley of Amazement 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 212 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok. I never write reviews. But some comments here have pissed me off. Stop talking about the book being too overly sexual. Its a book about Chinese courtesans. Read some history books. Of course there is going to sex. But its done in a well thoughtout and historically accurate way. Dont want to read a book with sex in it? Then buy a cook book not a book about courtesans. This book is not " smut" as one reviewer called it. Its a great book. I just finished reading it and really enjoyed it. I am a life long fan and will continue to be. Great job researching the era and weaving it into a wonderful story line. Oh and can someone buy miss " smut" a fifty shades of gray book? That will really knock her self rightous, prude socks off.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am ordering this because of the 1 star review by Anonymous who said, "Of eight years writing block she did not need to add smut and sexusal grafic violence to bring back her fans she just lost one." I wrote this with her typos/mispellings, by the way. That review helped me decide to buy this . Thank you. And Thank you Amy Tan for your development as a writer. You will always have a loyal reader.
tigerlille More than 1 year ago
Another engrossing study of the mother - daughter relationship, this time with a Eurasian component.  Amy's stories are always so epic, transmitted through the ancestral DNA of a country and culture where women have suffered so terribly. I am so glad that Amy's chronic illness has not silenced her voice, and would gladly wait another 8 years for her next work.  A heartbreaking story, but infinitely rewarding.  An exceptional rendering of the historic Chinese courtesan culture.  Simply could not put the book down; this is my secon night sitting up until 4 am to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Tan, once again, has given readers a journey to explore our imaginations. A GREAT READ and a great book club selection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Engrossing multigenerational story that introduces the reader to Shanghai at the turn of the century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really engaging story. Many times I wanted to yell at the main character to do or not to do something. This pulls you along to see what will happen. There are lots of historical information about China and the Chinese during the early 1900s, but reader beware sometimes it is "R" rated. Highly recommended for the "not" timid. A another great book on the Nook is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. This historical novel is set during World War II. It has great male and female characters including an Nazi villian. The story is based on actual facts and is also very engaging - but not rated R. Both books deserve A++++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After learning more than I ever needed to know about the life of the Courtesan of ancient China I became riveted to the lives of the characters and the stories that wound around their lives. The final ending and the way the lives of the characters related was fascinating and worth staying with it,(I had to)to the very end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So well crafted it inspired me to go back to read again Amy Tan's beautiful and dynamic novels
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amy Tan excels at writing about family issues and more specifically about women and the complexities of relationships. Even though this is a work of fiction, I felt that I learned something important about the Chinese culture, because Ms. Tan in my opinion does this so well with her stories. I loved the prose and the way she brought all the pieces together. Any story that can make me feel emotional and cry is an excellent effort. I hope they make it into a film
AngieJG More than 1 year ago
This novel was well done and thorough. I read through the book quickly. It had my attention the whole time. Tan covered a lot of ground (years and relationships). I wished, at times, she stayed focused longer on a particular time and relationship. I would have liked to know more about Violet's relationship with her first husband. I felt that thread came and went too quickly. Overall, a solid read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh, Amy Tan! Once again, you have brought me to tears! I found this book to be a transport to a strange and different land with an intriguing and ever changing, story to tell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Avid fan of Ms. Tan's. Found the story to be enticing, though not as powerfully drawing as some of her other works. Still, a very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Amy Tan's books and this is one of my absolute FAVORITES. I am already ready to read it again. That being said, do not buy if you are afraid of reading about the history of courtesan life in China... Obviously, it goes in depth about the lives of courtesans and Tan has said in interviews that she did extensive research in order to write those parts accurately. It was a part of history whether you like it or not!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An absolutely wonderful book it was so very interesting. And, yes there was just a little lewd dialogue and sexual innuendo, but not extensively throughout the story. We are talking about women's rights and choices in China, circa 1912, and the Courtesan culture. It would have been unrealistic to tell the story any other way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Life can be hard, cruel, unfair and lovely is the author's message here. The novel is well-written, with excellent character development and clear story-telling. We "grow" along with the main character, Violet, and as her namesake flower grows in the garden and overflows so does her life. Violet is trapped by both the society around her and the decisions of others. Do not read this book if you are in a sad mood. Part of me wonders if Amy Tan is retelling someone's real life story. It rings too true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
having read all of Tan's books, I am amazed that this one is so lacking. It's almost like a totally different author.
dotc More than 1 year ago
do not know how to rate this book. It is a very sad story without any relief of happiness. I spent most of reading it very very sad. Not to say book is not good just that if you want to feel good this book is not for you . My rating is based on the fact that it was well researched and written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. To those that have commented on the sex in the book my ccomment to you is why buy a book that has sex.as the subject. Hello people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful tale then entwined American and Chinese societies during the period between WWI and WWII. Three generations of ladies who find themselves in the same situation as the other. the ending was a big sudden, and there could easily be another book following this one... Highly recommended....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree that Amy Tan's style was quite different with this book when compared with her earlier offerings such as The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife. Readers looking for Tan's trademark quirky-lovable characters such as Winnie Louie and Lindo Sun may find The Valley of Amazement protagonists Lucia/Lulu Minturn and Violet Minturn Fang (shaped as they were by the circumstances into which they were born) a bit hard-edged and difficult to embrace at first. The reader will warm up to them as the story unfolds: they are two women caught in the crossfire between two cultures, where the line separating filial duty from betrayal can be heartbreakingly thin. Though I personally felt that some parts could have been excised without sacrificing the flow or the quality of the story, I felt that, all in all, it was a worthwhile read. The mother-daughter connection is not a new theme in Amy Tan's works...but I believe this is one of the first ones where the spotlight included the grandmother as well (whatever Lucia's failings as a mother, she came through as the Grandmother to end all grandmothers!) Tan's magic may have changed shape somewhat...but she still comes through in the end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wasn't going to write a review thinking if I don't have something good to say then say nothing. However, I really regret spending money for this book and someone else might save their money if they read my review. I read other reviews of those who loved it, so perhaps you will, but I did not and only read to page 171 and couldn't read further. It was boring to me, and I didn't care for the subject matter. I would say if you want to read it perhaps get it at the library or borrow from a friend and then you won't have spent your money in case you don't enjoy the book. You can always buy it if you love it! I have read other books by Amy Tan which I absolutely loved. This unfortunately was not one. I would not buy another of her books, I would not take a chance again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received this book as a birthday present and didn't expect to be captivated by the story as soon as I began reading the first page. It's a page turner because of its characters. My favorite was Magic Gourd. Her personality shined through the pages and I would laugh out loud at what she said or did. I think she has officially become my favorite secondary character ever. However, the mother-daughter story really was beautiful even though it was tragic. I found myself wishing to know what happen to them even after the story was done. Overall, I would recommend this book because of the story was good. My only issue was that sometimes when I was reading I felt that I was being told a story rather than being in the story... if that makes any sense. Some things felt rushed or summarized but honestly, it understandable when you see the plot. I've only read "The Bonesetter's Daughter" and remembered liking it, but now I think I will venture into some other works of Amy Tan. I really enjoyed reading this book!   
wordz More than 1 year ago
This was a great read.  The wonderfully told story transported me to another time and place.  I was very intrigued with Tan's thorough description of life as a courtesan.  This book never lost my interest, from beginning to end.  This was my first Amy Tan book and I'm already trying to decide which one to read next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Amy Tan and really tried to like this book but failed. I haven't given up and will gladly read her next book. She is still my favorite author. Can't wait for the next one Amy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
History, heartache, drama, all come together in a well crafted tale that keeps the reader interested and engaged. An excellent story....!!!