I remember reading Memoirs of a Geisha back in high school and being totally blown away by the world that Arthur Golden brought to life. The exotic courtesan houses, the elaborate costumes, the complicated and disturbing roles these women played… Ever since reading it I’ve searched for other books that would take me further into this world and teach me more about this period in Chinese history.
Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement does exactly that.
The Valley of Amazement is an absolute gift of a book. I got so lost in the fascinating story that Tan weaves and was completely immersed in the world she creates. This was my first time reading anything by Amy Tan and now I am desperate to get my hands on her earlier books. She is such a gifted writer.
The Valley of Amazement takes the reader through the doors of a courtesan house in Shanghai, and into the lives of these women and their families. The story centers on two women, Lucia and Violet. Lucia is an American and owner of the courtesan house and Violet is her half-American, half-Chinese daughter. Violet is headstrong, curious, passionate… Exactly the type of character you want to read. The story really takes off when Violet finds herself alone in Shanghai, and sold to a rival courtesan house. She must use everything she has to survive and adapt to the new lifestyle. This is where I really got hooked into the story. Trust me, when you get to this part, you will have to sacrifice sleep, food, social outings, etc. because you will not want to leave Violet.
The Valley of Amazement spans Violet’s entire life, so you see her grow up, adapt to her unfortunate circumstances, fall in love, and at all times struggle to find her place in a society where women are not treated in the way they deserve. Through Violet’s journey, Amy Tan is able to show the reader so many different sides of Chinese culture, and also all the emotions and trials every women goes through when it comes to love, loss, family, and finding a sense of self.
Readers, you are going to love this book. You are going to fall in love with Amy Tan’s writing (if you haven’t already), and you are not going to want to put it down. (And it’s 600 pages so it’s definitely one you have to set aside a few days for!! But trust me, it’s worth it.)
As a teenager, I fell in love with Memoirs of a Geisha, and have been waiting ever since then for a book that captured my attention like that. Now, I’ve fallen in love with The Valley of Amazement. I hope you’ll let yourself get lost in Amy Tan’s writing. Honestly, this is a book that, as I said above, is an absolute gift. (And let me know if you read it because I want to talk about it!! @shanparsons).