The Valley of Amazement – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

Critical Mass by: Sara Paretsky (Incidentally there is a handwritten post it in this book that says “AB Not Her Best”. I’m a little intrigued. Okay, more than a little intrigued.)

The Revisionists by: Thomas Mullen

Other Books I’m Reading:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I’ve been on the fence about how to review Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement. On one hand, I remember the days of the The Joy Luck Cluband I’m disappointed. The Valley of Amazement has all the hallmarks of a book that was written by an author that didn’t really have a story to tell. On the other hand, if it wasn’t an Amy Tan novel, I could be willing to go easier on the book. Hum.

The Valley of Amazement is largely about Violet, the daughter of Lulu Minturn. Lulu is a white American who ran off with a Chinese painter to Shanghai. After their daughter Violet is born, the Chinese painter steals their second child, a son, and runs off to his family. This leaves Lulu with only one choice. Open a high end courtesan house in Shanghai. A house that Violet is raised in until she is about fifteen.

When Violet is fifteen, Lulu is conned by her long term lover. This lover steals Violet, and sells her into service at another Courtesan house. Then he helps a local gang take over Lulu’s house while Lulu is in America.

Essentially The Valley covers the three lives of three women in three different generations. Lulu, Violet, and Violet’s daughter Flora. These three lives are so similar they are basically the same story told in three different settings. There are several heavy and oft repeated themes in The Valley. Young women having sex way to early, and being used by those sexual partners. Children stolen from their parents. Mother’s that barely know their daughters. Daughters who have to deal without the help of their mother. Poverty, and the fear of poverty. I found the book to be a repetitive and dismal. It is meticulously written, as every Amy Tan book I’ve ever read has been, but lacking the poetry I’ve come to expect from her work.

I did at one point become convinced that Violet was having a child with her long lost brother. Thankfully this turned out to be not the case at all. Whew. Too much V.C. Andrews in my past.

There are some scenes of corporeal exuberance. Nothing over the top or really intense. It is after all a book about courtesans. I think actually the most disturbing scene in the book is one of Violet getting beaten by a patron.

Favorite Scene: Rocks fall, and the evil guy dies. Well, one of the evil guys.

Favorite Quote: Anything in which the phrase “clouds and rain” is used seriously.

Enjoyability: I’m going two stars on this one. It left me to gloomy to give it more.

Where to read this book: Maybe somewhere sunny.

Further reading: Critical Mass. Wasn’t there a V.I. Warshawski movie in the 90’s?

 

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Posted on February 25, 2014, in books, Fiction, Reading, review. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Dismal and gloomy is not my choice of reading, either, even if enjoys the “poetry” of Amy Tan.
    But do tell me how you like the Neil Gaiman book! I’ve meant to start reading him once I get to him in my stack of authors, but I never get around to it, and he’s (nerd alert) written, or helped write, some of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, plus, he’s writing another episode for the upcoming 8th season.

    • I’m not yet half way through, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Gaiman has a tendency to be a slow burn. He’s really good at darkly hinting about what is going on without spelling it out. Which makes him a suspenseful read. But if you asked me right now to explain exactly what is going on, I’m not sure I could explain with any precision. However, there’s a road trip and a reanimated body, theft, a guy who played chess for the chance to kill another man, prison, possibly the god Loki running around as a gang banger called Low Key, and booze.

      I knew he was on “The Doctor’s Wife”, were there others? Great show!

  2. LOVED The Doctor’s Wife – easily, for me, the best episode under Matt Smith’s Doctor. He was also part of the writing of the endy bits of David Tennant’s (Ten) last episode, I think where he went and visited all the past companions, except for Rose (because he couldn’t), and possibly the dialogue with Wilfred there at the end, when Wilfred was knocking to get out of the chamber (“he’ll knock four times”). Not entirely sure how much of the episode he had a hand in writing, but I know he did SOME of it, although Davies did most of it because it was HIS swan song as well.

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