Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai, a beautiful and intelligent woman who has honed her ability to become any man's fantasy since her start as a "Virgin Courtesan" at the age of twelve. Half-Chinese and half-American, she moves effortlessly between the East and the West. But her talents belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Abandoned by her mother, Lucia, and uncertain of her father's identity, Violet's quest to truly love and be loved will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity-and the loss of her own daughter.
Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once herself the proprietress of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds, which she first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, Violet's daughter, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.
Pages: 589 (hardcover)
Publisher: Published November 5th 2013 by Ecco (first published October 24th 2013)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out of library
Date Completed: April 2, 2014
I have loved Amy Tan ever since I first read Joy Luck Club in college. A few years ago, I enjoyed reading her memoir The Opposite of Fate on a trip to India. I was really excited to learn that she had a new book coming out, The Valley of Amazement. My excitement and anticipation only increased when I read the story of her search for a new editor who ended up working with her on this book. Since the book was in high demand and I am still on on a book buying budget, I had a lot of breaks in my reading as the book had to be returned and I needed to wait my turn.
In spite of stopping and starting multiple times, I found myself engrossed in the story. In particular, I liked getting to know Violet and seeing her grow. Parts of the book were slow, but I felt like there were lots of saucy parts which made for some juicy reading. As with all of her novels, I appreciated the exploration of mother daughter relationships in a way that honors complexity and conflict. The lessons on how to be a courtesan were fascinating and the ways in which she fell in love made me feel both hopeful and sad.
I am counting this book for the following challenge: 2014 Chunkster Reading Challenge: At 589 pages, this is certainly a chunkster.