Oh my God, Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors. That being said, it took me about three weeks to read this book, maybe longer. Not even because it's pretty lengthy, just because it's really heavy stuff. I had to take it in small doses, but once I became accustomed to the depression and anxiety this book caused me I devoured the last half in just a few days.
A book making one feel depressed and anxious may seem like a bad thing, but I think that's a testament to Amy Tan's superb writing. I felt as if I were Violet. I felt like every bad thing that happened to her, happened to me. I think that's why I had to take this book slow. It was just too much emotionally.
During the past year I read a lot of Christian books, so I've became fairly unaccustomed to tragic stories. In the Christian fiction genre, bad things happen, often told without a lot of depth or emotion. In the end though, you know everything will always be hunky-dory. No matter what happens, the ending will always be happy. This book was so tragic that I honestly wasn't sure if there would be a happy ending or any light at the end of the tunnel, ever. There sort of was.
The story itself was so intricate that I can hardly begin to explain the story line. The book is based in Victorian Shanghai and a little bit in San Francisco and New York. Lucretia Minturn follows her baby daddy to China when she becomes pregnant while he's staying in her family's San Francisco home. Since Lucretia (also known as Lucia or LuLu) is white and her lover Lu Shing is Chinese, they can't marry. Neither American nor Chinese society will allow them legally to do so and Lu Shing is promised by his family to a girl back in China. Lucia's daughter, Violet, is raised in the courtesan house that Lucia later opens when she moves to Shanghai. Through a series of events mother and daughter are separated and Violet becomes a popular Shanghainese courtesan.
There's so much more to the story, but I can't really say because it would spoil the book.
There were times while reading when I wasn't sure how much I was going to like it. But the book, especially the last half was just so good that I ended up loving it and I'm giving The Valley of Amazement 4 out of 5 stars.