This sensual jewel of a tale is an extract from ‘Valley of Amazement’ – the first book in six years from the beloved and bestselling Amy Tan. Shanghai, 1912: beautiful courtesans compete for the patronage of wealthy gentlemen. The contest is deadly serious; if played well, it can set a young woman up for life as mistress to a rich and prominent man. However, erotic power is hard to achieve, especially in the loftiest social circles. Enter veteran temptress, Magic Gourd. Once one of the most beautiful women in Shanghai, now the attendant of Violet, an aspiring but inexperienced courtesan. Violet has youth, but Magic Gourd has the cunning without which Violet is sure to fail. These tricks of the trade are not in books; to pass them on, Magic Gourd must recall her own professional past, bringing her lessons alive with stories from a career spent charming and manipulating men. Amy Tan’s ‘Rules for Virgins’ is a painstaking recreation of this strict yet sexualised society. Shocking and intriguing, it reveals the vanity and folly, calculation and desire, that define the mysterious human heart.
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