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Amy Tan, Strange Blooms, Francois Mitterrand

Novelist Amy Tan talks to Anne McElvoy about her new book The Valley of Amazement, set in China and America and spanning the first half of the 20th century.

Amy Tan, bestselling writer of The Joy Luck Club, the Kitchen God's Wife and three other novels, has a new book out after nearly eight years. The Valley of Amazement is an ambitious historical novel spanning nearly fifty years from the end of the nineteenth century through to the start of the Second World War. It moves between America and China but the main story is set in Shanghai in the early twentieth century, told through the voice of Violet Minturn, daughter of the American mistress of Shanghai's most exclusive courtesan house.

The visual flamboyance and evolutionary tenacity of flowers inspire choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh's latest work, Strange Blooms, which has been commissioned by London's Southbank Centre to celebrate her company's 25th anniversary. Shobana and fashion historian Caroline Cox discuss the ways in which our depiction of flowers in culture and fashion have changed.

François Mitterrand was one of the key architects of modern Europe but also a deeply ambiguous figure: a civil servant in the Vichy government but also a Resistance leader; a left-wing politician but not a socialist; a man who maintained a long-term mistress and the child they had together alongside his 'official' family. Anne talks to the author of a new biography, Philip Short.

Image Credit: Chris Nash.

Available now

45 minutes


  • Amy Tan

    Amy Tan discusses her new novel, The Valley of Amazement

    Duration: 15:27

  • Strange Blooms

    A discussion on Strange Blooms and the depiction of flowers in fashion and culture

    Duration: 11:33

  • Greed

    Anne McElvoy muses on our fascination with greed

    Duration: 03:41

  • François Mitterrand

    Philip Short on the life of François Mitterrand, the subject of his new biography

    Duration: 13:44


Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity written by Philip Short is published by Bodley Head.

Amy Tan

Amy Tan

The Valley of Amazement written by Amy Tan is published by Fourth Estate.


Image Credit: Rick Smolan

Strange Blooms

Strange Blooms

Strange Blooms by Shobana Jeyasingh has it's world premier at the Southbank Centre, London on Tuesday 3rd, and Wednesday 4th December 2013.


Image Credit: Chris Nash

Caroline Cox

Luxury Fashion: A Global History of Heritage Brands written by Caroline Cox is published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts.


Role Contributor
Presenter Anne McElvoy
Interviewed Guest Amy Tan
Interviewed Guest Shobana Jeyasingh
Interviewed Guest Caroline Cox
Interviewed Guest Philip Short


Free Thinking

Free Thinking

Radio 3’s new home for arts and ideas.