‘Saga’ is probably the most appropriate word to describe Amy Tan’s novel, The Valley of Amazement. The novel took Tan a whopping eight years to write and comes in at just under 600 pages. I really don’t know why this book earned so many bad reviews (Goodreads), it’s a fab story. Maybe after the huge popular success of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter, some readers have specific expectation of Tan.
Lovers of The Joy Luck Club will be familiar with Tan’s mother-daughter focus, and happy to see her introduce a new duo in the form of Lucia and Violet Minturn. Headstrong young American Lucia, rebels against her eccentric parents and winds up running a courtesan house in Shanghai. Up until 1912, Hidden Jade Path is the most exclusive courtesan houses in the city, largely due to its wealthy and enigmatic American owner, Lucia. While it seems a strange place to raise a daughter, Lucia’s young girl Violet, knows no different. Her privileged youth was spent cloaked in her mother’s love, spying on courtesans, and tumbling through rooms with her beloved cat.
Everything changes however in 1912 with the overthrow of the Ching dynasty. Shanghai’s fortunes shift and Lucia makes a decision that tears her and her daughter apart. Violet must carve out her future in a city full of political and financial instability.
A parade of men and competitive courtesans, and all their related dramas and petty jealousies, not to mention vindictive first wives, threaten Violet’s happiness. Despite her best efforts, echoes of her mother’s past shadow Violet’s every move. Fate and family dominate all else in this busy and evocative tale, spanning two continents and three generations.
A must for anyone who appreciates a good storyteller!