Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Old Book by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club Having just read The Silent Girl, Tess Gerritsen's latest, with its setting in Chinatown and Chinese myths and culture, I remembered I still had two Amy Tan novels waiting on my shelf to be read. I decided to read her first one, The Joy Luck Club.

Earlier I had read another of Tan's books and liked it, but this one was a disappointment to me. It involves four women who were born in China and came to this country as adults, and their daughters. The mothers have retained their Chinese ways. They agonize over the western ways of their daughters who have been raised in the U.S. The story is told in a series of vignettes. One of my problems was that I'm not used to Chinese names so I had to keep looking back to see which person's story I was reading. At the end of the book I was still checking the names, which means of course that I wasn't involved enough to get to know them by their names.

The mothers' stories were definitely more interesting, even though the daughters had their own difficulties with their strict and suspicious mothers as they tried to assimilate with their friends and neighbors. One mother, for instance, had been widowed young in China and then tricked into becoming the fourth wife of a rich man. Her story was engrossing, and maddening for an American reader.

Amy Tan is a great writer but it amazes me that this book was the one that made her famous. Apparently it worked for other readers much more than for me. Admittedly, I found the Chinese culture fascinating, so different than what I grew up learning. Perhaps you will like it.


  1. I have not read any of her books yet, but a couple of short stories. I agree that she writes well, but there are also aspects of the Chinese culture she writes about that really annoys me, such as the extremely ambitious parents.

  2. Loved this book; loved MOST of her books, and I was thinking she is overdue for a new one.

    Glad you enjoyed this one Barbara.

  3. I have not read this one; I did read The Kitchen God's Wife years ago and remember liking it very much.

  4. TheBookGirl: I think it was The Kitchen God's Wife that I read a long time ago, and I too liked it very much.

    Diane, I did like it and will read more.

    Dorte, I know some of the customs are annoying, and in this book I was annoyed by the way daughters were held back by their old-fashioned mothers. I deal with it by just thanking my lucky stars that I only had to deal with a mother who was caught in the 1940s and 50s. Like when I wanted to learn to play drums. No, that isn't ladylike, she said. So she decided I would play a cello. That's ladylike? My poor dog hated it, ran for the back door and scratched frantically every time I took out the cello. :D