My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Valley of Amazement takes its name from a painting that keeps popping up during the story. Throughout the story this painting winds it’s way through the lives of many of the primary characters leading to false promises and shadowy dreams.
Tan’s book is told from the point of view of three women, grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter as they live through the early part of the 20th century in China and America. Over and over we see deception, loss, separation and moments of joy and happiness are few and far between.
The two older women lead the lives of courtesans in Shanghai and struggle with the implications of this life. I have nothing against this sort of story line. however there were moments about 2/3rds of the way through the book where Tan dwelt on some on the negative aspects of the life. After one or two sad and pathetic scenes of abuse we get the point. I do not think Tan needed to hammer her point home so hard. Editor Please!!!!!
The story starts out strong and Tan uses the narrative voice of a seven year old girl in a courtesan house to bring the reader into the tale. But, as things progress The Valley of Amazement starts to become a soap-opera set in China! Twists and turns give the story an over the top silliness that leaves readers wondering why Tan needed so much silliness in her story.
I am new to Tan’s work, (although I have seen the Joy Luck Club–but of course that doesn’t count!). Her writing was well done and she executed switching voices well. However, the plot really started to become rather goofy and hurt the work.
I suggest skipping it, unless you have a love for the period or simply afore Tan’s work.