The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Violet grows up in unusual circumstances. She lives in China, but she is taught that she is an American, which is party true. Her mother is an American running a courtesan house. She opens her house to both western men and Chinese men. Violet feels as if her mother doesn’t love her, because she’s always busy with her business.
Some secrets come to light, but there is also a governmental change in China that isn’t as friendly towards westerners. Violet’s mother plans to leave the country with Violet. There is some mix up with Violet’s birth certificate and Violet doesn’t get out, but her mother does. A man named Fairweather was supposed to be in charge of getting Violet on the boat, but he sells her instead to a courtesan house.
At first Violet has hope that she will get out, but she soon resigns herself to her life as a courtesan. Preparations are made to sell her virginity. Life as a courtesan moves on for Violet. She receives presents from her male clients. Her life goes well for a while, until she meets an American man. This man falls in love with her and she moves in with him and has a baby, her life should be happy, but it doesn’t turn out that way.
Violet is soon bounced back in to the courtesan lifestyle, and again into marriage, and again into hardship. Ultimately, she does find a way to reunite with missing family members.
What I liked
Amy Tan is always a great read. She writes about China and she writes about family. Family is a concept that is very important in China, but it’s generally important to anyone. Amy’s books are almost always from points of views of different members in a family. It’s interesting to see how an event plays out through different sets of eyes belonging to people who are connected.
I liked learning a little more about Chinese courtesan culture. It’s quite similar to the geisha culture of Japan.
This book was set at something of a tumultuous time for westerners in China. Western people had gone to China to live, but the government changed and that made it more difficult for them to live there. Some of them had to leave. This very same situation has happened in many countries and governments change.
This is a period of China’s history that is apparently really captivating to Amy because she’s written about it before, but in different areas, in relation to other characters.
What I didn’t like
This book seemed really long. It took me a while to read it. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to read it, it’s going to take a while.
I’d like to visit China and see some of the culture that Amy writes about.
Could you imagine leaving a country you’ve lived in most of your life because you weren’t native to that country? What do you think would happen to you?
Do you think Violet became a prisoner of her lifestyle?