Having enjoyed Amy Tan's previous novels, The Joy Luck Club and The Hundred Secret Senses, I was disappointed by the shallowness of the characters and the lack of depth in the relationship between mothers and daughters depicted in this one.
I was turned off from the start by the selfish and self-centered mother, the very unpleasant child Violet, and the "women are chattel" attitude portrayed in historical Chinese society. Every character seems to be selfish and interested only in his or her own needs and desires. I kept on reading, thinking the characters would evolve or become more likable, but was disappointed. And the title of this novel - was this supposed to be a veiled reference to a woman's vagina? I couldn't help but wonder as each female character seemed to use and depend on it as her only available power.
Ms. Tan writes for over 400 pages in the child's voice as she grows up in Shanghai and becomes a woman. The lurid and brutal details of her life could have been shortened by 200 pages without losing any character or plot development. She then spends about a hundred pages in the mother's voice, from her teenage years to her older age, where we at last receive some idea of her motivation. The last fifty pages of this novel contain a "Hollywood" ending that is sickeningly sweet, and just unbelievable.
I wish I had done as other reviewers said, and just put this book down, but I kept reading due to my previous experience and the reputation of the author.
A richly detailed book that takes you on a historical journey with a girl who grows up and becomes a woman in Shanghai. The book was long, but I enjoyed every moment. At times, the ups & downs in her life were a bit much, but the book had a satisfying and emotional ending.