The Valley of Amazement – by Amy Tan – independent book review – Historical Fiction (China)

Two compelling stories of a mother and daughter and a deep glimpse into Chinese culture and the world of courtesans. Awarded four stars on Goodreads. But 4.5 is more accurate.

Reading this book feels like a walk through the history of Modern China and its struggle between old world traditions and explosive growth and modernization.

It’s the story of two women who’s fates are woven together. Spanning 40 years, readers get to experience Chinese life in remote mountain villages, observe the end of the imperial dynasty, visit the inner workings of courtesan houses, and witness the dramatic changes brought by World War II.

Not to be missed are the lessons about how courtesans keep men enthralled. The teachers really understood the psyche of men. (One of my favorite parts.)

At points this was a real page turner, though there were also a few moments I was less engaged. But it’s a powerful story and an interesting and intimate glimpse into a country we know so little about.

Amy Tan

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