Have you read Amy Tan? More to the point, have you read Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement? It has been ages since I have read an of her work and the few books by her I have read I have loved and been amazed by. I finished two books yesterday, so of course I get to pick a new one. I wanted something entirely different than the two books I had been reading, so my thoughts turned to historical fiction. Something rich and descriptive and a good meaty sort of story to lose myself in. I had a little pile of books to peruse but my attention kept going back to Amy Tan.
So I thought I really wanted to share a little teaser here from the opening pages and I made the mistake of going to Amazon to snag the cover illustration and made the mistake of looking at the reviews. I've not really read them in any detail, but I am disappointed to see so many reviews that are, shall we say, ungenerous in their star ratings. How can Amy Tan write a bad book? Is it just too much, too long, to descriptive? Should I care? Mostly I don't since I don't know the reviewers and our tastes may vary wildly. But it does give me pause. I am only a few pages in. Should I choose something else? Should I pick up a comfort read that I know I can depend on and opt for a reread? Should I just press on?
Let me just share the teaser first. The first chapter is narrated by seven-year-old Violet who is the daughter of a courtesan, or rather her mother, Lulu Minturn is the only white woman to own a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai. She is caught out speaking "chinee" and so looked down upon by all her classmates at school. So she must reason with herself and try to understand what is going on . . .
"I worried for two days, until logic and deduction enabled me to reclaim my race. First of all, I reasoned, Mother was an American. Although my father was dead, it was obvious he had been an American, since I had fair skin, brown hair, and green eyes. I wore Western clothing and regular shoes. I had not had my feet crushed and wedged like dumpling dough into a tiny shoe. I was educated, too, and in difficult subjects, such as history and science--'and for no greater purpose than Knowledge Alone,' my tutor had said. Most Chinese girls learned only how to behave."
The year is 1905 and I am not sure what adventures Violet is going to have, but already her life is intriguing to me. (Though why are the girls always daughter of courtesans in books about China in this era? . . . maybe that is a slight exaggeration?).
So I will give it a go. I've been sort of at swim and directionless in my reading--or am trying (without a lot of success) to stay on track with my few reading plans, but lately I feel like chucking all my books and starting from scratch and losing all plans save for my monthly theme. Maybe I should chuck them all and allow myself ONLY three (did you think I would say one? I wish I had the oomph to do that--three seems an acceptably low number to me) books and not allow myself to start another unless I finish or otherwise return to the shelves one of the three.
Hmm. We are now past the halfway mark of the year. Maybe drastic changes are needed? What do you think?