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The Valley of Amazement

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  39,529 ratings  ·  4,845 reviews
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, t
Hardcover, 589 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Ecco
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Jiny S This is a great book if you have the patience. Each of the women had a unique narrative and their stories are heartbreaking at times.
Natalia I feel the same, it was disappointing. I couldn't emphatize with the main characters. The erotic parts were lame.

The only feeling this book gave me w…more
I feel the same, it was disappointing. I couldn't emphatize with the main characters. The erotic parts were lame.

The only feeling this book gave me was frustration and a frugal sense of victory once I finished it. (I tried to quit reading on several occasions).(less)

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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  39,529 ratings  ·  4,845 reviews

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Asa Dematteo
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am always astounded by reviewers who compare, always unfavorably, the book they have to some book that they feel should have been written. Many of the reader reviews I read here fall into that category. Taken on its own, The Valley of Amazement is a marvelous, nutritious and fulfilling novel, a ripping good yarn. It has, of course, the elegantly simple and lucid prose that Ms. Tan is noted for, as well as the touches of magic and the unique characters she always seems to find. But it also has ...more
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it

The Story behind the Story
Amy Tan's inspiration for The Valley of Amazement originated at a visit to The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, where she stumbled upon an academic book with a BW photo of courtesans - "a class of women who were influential in introducing Western popular culture to Shanghai" (read between those words). The 1910 photo was captioned: "The Ten Beauties of Shanghai." She was stunned - these women were wearing clothing specific to the trade, identical to those in her favo
Jun 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Okay, no thank you Ms. Tan. I really don't want to know the intimate clinical details of what it was to be a prostitute in turn-of-the-century Shanghai. I don't want characters whose nearest and dearest are CONSTANTLY dying or disappearing. Tragedy upon tragedy equals yawn, in the end. You could see what was going to happen at the village the second someone said 'oh let's go to my village.' I was looking for a multi-generational/cultural saga; I got fifty different words for private parts. Off t ...more
Nov 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
1.5 "sociocultural, soft porn and soap opera" stars !!

2015 Most Disappointing Read (tie)

I want to start off by saying I read two books by Amy Tan in my twenties that I liked very much. These were the Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife. They were interesting and about complicated relationships but written in an accessible and intelligent way.

This current book took eight years to write and I want to say it was just an awful reading experience. Eight years to write this tortuous book.

The bo
Always Pouting
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually really liked the book and I want to echo another reader's sentiment that this would make for a really good show or mini series. I can see why others might not have enjoyed it. The book is quite long and at times detailed in a way that might be tedious, though personally I found that aspect enjoyable because it really allowed me to lose myself in the book. It also focuses mostly on Violet and then towards the end it suddenly feels like we get all this information at once about Lucia, w ...more
Miss Melly
Dec 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: china
There is so much to like about this novel but ultimately it is let down by too many unlikely character motivations. The characters that Amy Tan draws for us - strong, savvy and resilient women - would simply NOT turn into nitwits overnight and make the poor decisions she depicts.
If a child of yours was kidnapped, would you ever put another child of yours at risk? And if you later discovered the whereabouts of your child, would you move heaven and earth to find that child, or would you just say,
Ron Charles
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Don’t call them prostitutes.

That’s the first rule of the Shanghai courtesans in Amy Tan’s exhausting new novel, “The Valley of Amazement.” Just because these women provide sex in exchange for money, they’re not prostitutes, so don’t even think that.

Deception and misperception are the stock in trade of the sex business — and of this story, too, which stretches over four generations and thousands of miles. The valley of “The Valley of Amazement” is very deep, indeed, an arduous journey of fraud, k
Susan Johnson
Nov 01, 2013 rated it liked it
It is a testament to Tan's writing that I finished this book. I do not like spending so much time with characters I do not like or respect. Violet Minturn, the daughter of a famed American courtesan mistress in Shanghi, is someone I didn't enjoy. A spoiled brat would be a good description. Violet is half American, half Chinese, a fact that she doesn't discover until she's 8 or 9. She creeps around the house spying on all the courtesans at work. Nothing her mother does is good enough and Violet n ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club in a high school English class. While I remember little of the specific details, I do recall the mother-daughter themes that really resonated with me: family lineage and the internal identity conflicts that come with being an Asian American, the search for self-affirmation through love, and finding one's place in the family, community, and world.

I got a hold of an advance copy of The Valley of Amazement from the publisher through a media publishing company I worked
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I read Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses years ago and loved it; I quite enjoyed The Bonesetter's Daughter as well. I'm one of the few people on the planet who didn't much like The Joy Luck Club, but it was Tan's first novel and my reaction had more to do with the way she chose to tell the story than her talent as a writer. Also, I love historical fiction and reading about China. All of which is to say, I had high expectations for this book.

Unfortunately, it tanked. The book begins with some moder
switterbug (Betsey)
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Amy Tan’s derivative new novel covers the familiar themes she has recycled from her previous novels about mother-daughter relationships. Spanning 50 years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the saga takes place largely in the courtesan houses of Shanghai, when vast changes were occurring during the early establishment of the Republic of China.

Told in the first person by a daughter from each generation, (but mostly from one named Violet), the reader is taken on an epic journey of love, i
Susanne Pari
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was thrilled when I realized Amy Tan's newest protagonist is biracial: Anglo-American and Chinese. Tan has always handled the bicultural narrative brilliantly, but the biracial narrative is far more complex and certainly more broadly significant to the current readership. She handles the subject with great insight and also courageously, because this novel, after all, takes place mostly during the the early 1900s, when biracial children were regarded with such deep aversion both in China and in ...more
Dec 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Relentless misfortune gets a little tiresome to read about after a while; so too with this book, wherein almost everything tragic that could possibly befall a young girl in early 20th century Shanghai most certainly does. I don't want to add to any unfair expectation that an Amy Tan novel must have an equal amount of storytelling divided amongst members of each generation, but at some point I would have liked to stop hearing about all of Violet's woes & get more juice about her mother Lucia. As ...more
Diane S ☔
It is very apparent that Tan did a huge amount of research before writing this novel. Her writing is very fluid and strong, so why than did I only rate this book a three? When I first started reading this I was enthralled, reading about the lives of the concubine, the houses that provided pleasure but also a place were business was discussed and deals were made. Found it fascinating that the madame of the place was a white woman, who had a young daughter.

Fast forward and politics rears its ugly
Oct 10, 2013 rated it liked it
It took the better part of 200 pages before this storyline started to gain a stake in my interest, and even then it was more of a gentle tug than a grabber. Still and yet, the writing is lovely; we are used to this with Amy Tan. Grief is defined as when ‘your eyes still see but have stopped looking’. Harbingers of bad luck masquerade as a sudden breath of wind, a tear in a garment of clothing, or a laughing bird. The impossibility of hanging a painting in a room of round walls is pondered. There ...more
Amy Tan is an amazing storyteller, and THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT exemplifies her skills. This is a multi generational story between mothers and daughters, as well as many other wonderful and important characters. The attention to detail and historical research that must have gone into the writing of this novel is mind-boggling. If you loved MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, you will be fascinated by the details and lives of Tan's courtesans.

I have read some criticisms of this book in other reviews, that it wa
Dec 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Spoilers.. sort of.
I'm still slogging through this book.. about 100 pages left. I don't know if I can make it. Too many sex techniques, like way, way, way too many. (And I'm fond of sex information) Way too long.and it covers almost the same .location, same abusive husband/men, same mountain village and same mystical mountain pass. I'm so disappointed. I can walk that damn mountain pass in my sleep.
In general, I love Tan's books.. but nothing new was brought to The Valley of Amazement.
JoAnne Pulcino

Amy Tan

Amy Tan has long held the title of the queen of the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, at least those of Chinese descent. THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT is the story of three generations of women all torn away from each other. The novel takes place at the turn of the 19th century traveling from Shanghai to a remote village in China to San Francisco.

Violet is a virgin courtesan in one of the most reputable houses in Shanghai where the length and graphic de
Elyse  Walters
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.7 stars --- I enjoyed the storytelling --but it felt like a story I've read many times. When its clear the story is going to be predictable (yet enjoyable also: as I DID enjoy reading Amy Tan again), it just doesn't take 600 pages to tell the story. 350 pages would have been about enough.
Amy Tan is an eloquent writer. It was easy to imagine the courtesans, their fashions, and their behaviors in public with their suitors. [The dramatic -the rich -the refined 'little darlings' creating i
Mary Lins
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: complete
If you want HUNDREDS of pages of minutia on being a Chinese courtesan (read: high dollar prostitute) in the early 20th century...then Amy Tan's new novel, "The Valley of Amazement" is for you.

If you like ROMANCE novels...then this may be the book for you; I don't know what you call a "Bodice Ripper" for a culture that doesn't wear bodices...a "Robe Ripper" maybe?

If you liked the how-to dating book called "The Rules"...then you might enjoy the section on how to be a courtesan. (Spoiler alert for
I ate up Amy Tan's book when I originally stumbled onto her novels and was left 'wanting more' soooo a few years ago when I saw a new book was coming out I was excited. I even ordered a CD (audio book) that offered a glimpse of the book and was left wanting more..

I started the novel when it originally came out but along the way 'life' got in the way and I put this book on the burner...Actually, my kindle broke so I had to wait to replace it before I could continue on,however, I didn't.

Sooo I rep
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Cheryl by: Advanced Reader Copy
Having enjoyed Amy Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses, I was excited to receive an ARC of her upcoming book. Looked forward all week to a great read. The premise was interesting, and I enjoyed the history woven in. I also felt that overall the topic of courtesans was treated respectfully. There is a lot to think about and I think book clubs will enjoy talking about various issues raised int he book.

For me, the amount of detail was over the top. Wasn't dense, felt repetitive to me. I started to lose
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
As a true Amy Tan fan and avid reader of her books, I'm sad to report that The Valley of Amazement is not at all amazing. The language in the part of the book set in China (most of it) seems stilted, as if to convey a Chinese sensibility that only ends up as awkward.

I thought of the book as it went along as the Black Beauty of courtesan books. Remember how Black Beauty just went from one sad situation to the next one? That is poor Violet, left behind, betrayed, pulling herself together yet ag
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I read the other reviews and I don't know what I'm missing but this book was not 5 star worthy. It was brilliant in places but tedious in others. It all felt TOO contrived and TOO predictable.

WARNING SPOILER ALERT IN THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS: Amy Tan likes to address the mother daughter relationship and does so again in this book although I could not relate. I would do ANYTHING to find my child even if I was told she was dead.

As I read the book I couldn't help but feel like we were romanticizing
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Apr 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Find all of my reviews at:

1.5 Stars

An epic mother/daughter saga that spans 50 years. The Valley of Amazement tells the story of Lucia, who becomes pregnant as a teen and leaves her family in hopes of marrying her Chinese lover. When he refuses to go against his family’s wishes, Lucia must survive on her own – eventually opening a courtesan house that caters to both East and West. The story continues with Lucia’s daughter, Violet, unrecognized by her father’s fa
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it
I torn between giving this book 3 stars and 3.5 stars. I liked this book but I have to say that I do not think it was as good as some of her previous work. I do agree with other reviewers that certain parts of this book dragged on and on and on....and then after all the *yawn* dragging the ending felt rushed to me. The book spans 50 years and mainly tells the life of Courtesans at the turn of the century. Amy Tan did her research and it shows but her extensive research was not enough to make me ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I tried hard to like this book but in the end just didn’t. The characters were just not likeable except for one who was only in the book for a short while then died. The book was very long but then the ending felt rushed.  I struggled to finish this book and when I did I realized I felt like I wasted a lot of time. 
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I have enjoyed many of Amy Tan's book in the past, and although this one was good, it isn't great.

I found that the book went into too much of the minute details, and became too long for the story. Most books I don't mind how long the book is, but this book just seemed to drag on and that sometimes it almost felt like "filler" material.

The story itself, however, is quite fascinating. Without giving too many spoilers, I especially liked how we switch from the daughter's viewpoint to the mother's v
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Amy Tan's writing is beautiful as always. She is a master storyteller, able to weave words together like a master painter at an easel. For me, reading her other works was like staring at a masterpiece hanging in a museum. They radiated emotion, made you think. They were poignant. This new book, not so much. It's like instead of painting her usual fare she painted a pair of socks. She's still a master, so it's the best damn painting of socks you've seen in your life. It's better than most of othe ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I have read every Amy Tan book and loved them all. I was so excited when this book came out. For one thing, it was too long (almost 600 pages) and felt like the story dragged on and could have been much shorter and maybe more enjoyable. It was difficult to read at times because it was one of those books where I wasn't in love with the characters and they made all the wrong decisions. Also, it seemed like after each heartbreak the characters endured, they simply moved on with their lives. The liv ...more
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Amy Tan (Chinese: 譚恩美; pinyin: Tán Ēnměi; born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. In 1993, Tan's adaptation of her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film.

She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hun

Articles featuring this book

A Shanghai courtesan and her madam mother are separated in The Valley of Amazement, the latest multigenerational story from the author of The Joy...
72 likes · 29 comments
“To save myself, I destroyed another, and in doing so, I destroyed myself.” 8 likes
“Hardships can harden even the best person.” 8 likes
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