Rules for Virgins

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.

Reviews of Rules for Virgins

  • Praise for Amy Tan:

    ‘Among our great storytellers. In each of her previous novels, she has seduced readers with the intimate magic of her tale’ New York Times

    ‘Tan is a prodigal with her talent. She weaves a dazzling web of unfamiliar colours, smells, tastes and landscapes’ Sunday Telegraph

    ‘There is something dizzyingly elemental about Tan’s storytelling; it melds the rich simplicities of fairytales with a delicate lyrical style’ Sunday Times