"the valley of amazement" is back to the amy tan that i love. my favorites of hers are definitely the period pieces. this one is early 1900s china. it was fascinating to watch both china and the role of women in the culture there evolve over the course of the story. as it's a novel on the life of a courtesan, it can be a bit graphic at times (if this bothers you, you could skip chapter four, courtesan training, and you would miss the bulk of it), but the characters and history are worth the read. i enjoyed it even more after reading amy tan's npr interview and knowing the research and family connection that went into it. if you've never read any of her work, i'd suggest starting with "the joy luck club" or "the bonesetter's daughter." those are my absolute favorites of hers and, really, a couple of my all time favorite books.