I might have finished slogging through this had I not had several other library books which were becoming due. Then again, this isn't really my cup of tea, my being an elderly, repressed Calvinist and all. I made it through 36% of the book, or 336 pp.
So, we have a young American girl in China (Shanghai). Her mother, also American, runs the fanciest "house of pleasure" in Shanghai, the only one that caters both to rich Chinese and also to rich foreigners. From time to time, she, the mother that is, can get the two sets together for business chats. At other times the two sets hang out with their own set for partying. Then of course, there are first-class "courtesans" to woo and on which to lavish riches, some of which (the riches, that is) are "shared" with the mother.
Well, at some point, the mother goes off to America to reunite with her husband and the son who was taken from her at his birth. Somehow, the girl, Violet, gets kidnapped on the way to the boat and ends up in a different "pleasure palace". Well, after 300+ pages of reading about life in Chinese "pleasure palaces" back a hundred years ago, I cried uncle. There are certain types of human depravity that do not attract me. This is one: rich old men using young girls as toys. Of course, we just elected a President who is no better than his Chinese peers from a century ago. Perhaps that has helped stigmatize the whole charade for me. Or perhaps it's just because I am, as I've said above, a repressed, elderly Calvinist. Whatever, I'm done.
I've read several other Amy Tan books and liked them well enough. I read her because I want a Chinese perspective so as better to understand the cultural context in which my son-in-law might have grown up. He is fully American, but his parents grew up in China. Anyway, I decided that whatever insight I might have received from this book wasn't worth wading through all the smut.