Snow Flower & The Secret Fan

Snow Flower & The Secret Fan
-by Lisa See
272 pages (2005)

MY RATING: 4.5/5

A history lesson with heart

Lisa See's beautiful, yet heartbreaking, tale of women's intimate relationships, and the rigid customs of 19th century China, is set in a remote village in Hunan province.Often in poetic, tender prose, the dynamics of the lives of two girls are recounted -- Lily, the narrator of the story, a sensitive daughter of a poor farmer; and Snow Flower a well-bred daughter of privilege -- spanning childhood ("milk years" and "daughter days"), adolescence ("hair pinning days"), mature married days as wives and mothers ("rice and salt days"), to old age ("sitting quietly days").From childhood the two girls' lives are bound together, at the instigation of a match-maker, by the customary laotong tradition - linking them to become life-long bosom friends (or "old sames"). Even at a distance, both geographically and status-wise, Lily and Snow Flower's correspondence reaches out across the boundaries as they write to each other in nu shu, a clandestinely-kept writing form known only to women, and a temporary respite in their oppression.Along with life's everyday hard lessons for a woman living in 19th century China, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan unveils the traditions behind arranged marriages, the superstitions and the ceremonies, the unyielding codes of conduct for daughters, wives and mothers, and the disturbing traditions of foot-binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty; only through suffering will you have peace"), and the placing of little value on women's life, except for their facility to bear sons for their husband.With a stoic acceptance - and, often times, eventual resignation - of their fate as the unappreciated sex, Snow Flower and Lily go their separate ways in life, due to a grave misunderstanding in their correspondence.

As both an excruciatingly poignant story and an enthralling historical account, See's beautifully portrayed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan will be sure to touch your heart.

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  1. I can see why - a lovely book, isn't it! :)

  2. My book club just finished this book and it got a two thumbs up from all of us!