Amy Tan - The Valley of Amazement
In conversation with Elaine Petrocelli
Shanghai, 1905: Violet Minturn is the young daughter of the American mistress of the city's most exclusive courtesan house. But when revolution arrives in the city, she will be separated from her mother in a cruel act of chicanery and forced to become a "virgin courtesan." Half-Chinese and half-American, Violet moves effortlessly between the cultural worlds of East and West, quickly becoming a shrewd business woman who deals in seduction and illusion. But her successes belie her private struggle to understand who she really is and her search for a home in the world. Lucia, Violet's mother, nurses wounds of her own, first sustained when, as a teenager, she fell blindly in love with a Chinese painter and followed him from San Francisco to Shanghai, only to be confronted with the shocking reality of the vast cultural differences between them. Violet's need for answers will propel both her and her mother on separate quests of discovery: journeys to make sense of their lives, of the men-fathers, lovers, sons-who have shaped them, and of the ways we fail each other and our children despite our best attempts to love and be loved.
Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement resurrects lost worlds: from the moment when China's imperial dynasty collapsed and a Republic arose and foreign trade became the lifeblood of Shanghai, to the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreign "Shanghailanders" living in the International Settlement, both erased by WWII. It is also a deeply evocative narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, which returns readers to the compelling territory Amy Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, she conjures a story of the inheritance of love, its mysteries and senses and its illusions and truths.
Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, Saving Fish from Drowning, and two children's books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, which has now been adapted as a PBS production. Tan was also a co-producer and co-screenwriter of the film version of "The Joy Luck Club." Her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work has been translated into thirty-five languages. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.
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