The Valley of Amazement

21 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 25½ hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781423322405. $89.97; 21 CDs. retail ed.; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. F
Tan (The Joy Luck Club) is in familiar territory here as a mother and daughter must battle others—and sometimes each other—to survive and prosper. The story starts in 1897, and the setting shifts between San Francisco and Shanghai. Lucia was born in America and has a daughter, Violet, with a Chinese man. Later, she becomes the owner of a high-end establishment in Shanghai that supplies courtesans to wealthy Easterners and Westerners. Violet is abandoned by her mother and becomes a courtesan herself, though her quest for love seems doomed. The overly detailed descriptions of everything from furniture to clothing to sex acts bogs down the story. Unfortunately, character development is also poorly executed. The multiple narrators—Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean, and Tan—skillfully present the characters as they age and their situations change.
VERDICT Those who favor in-depth description and international settings will particularly enjoy. ["This utterly engrossing novel is highly recommended to all readers who appreciate an author's ability to transport them to a new world they will not forget," read the more positive starred review of the Ecco: HarperCollins hc, LJ 8/13.]

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