Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author: Lisa See
Paperback: 258 pages
Published: February 21, 2006
By: Random House
First Published: June 28, 2004
Setting: Hunan, China
Literary Awards: Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee 2008

from Goodreads:

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she's painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect on their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Alleluialu's review:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story of two women, Lily and Snow Flower, matched at a very young age by various signs that are significant to the Chinese people. They were to be each other's "laotong" which meant they would be closer to each other than anyone else. Lisa See puts us in the women's chamber and lets us experience the girls' joy at being together and their fear and pain at foot-binding as well as many other experiences throughout their lives. I really felt as though I was there experiencing those things with them. The story took a very logical, chronological path and See taught us many things about the Chinese culture and the relationships between women and how they were treated by men and older women. There were many rules to follow. Snow Flower longed to be more independent while Lily just tried to do the right thing so people would love her. There were twists and turns in their relationship and the story that I don't want to give away, but through the story I leaned toward identifying with Lily. Her life was ordered by the rules of their culture, but in some situations she followed the advice of her mother-in-law: "Obey, obey, obey, then do what you want." That's the kind of advice I would give my own daughters. Do what is expected of you to take care of your family, but make sure there are times that you can do what you want. The love between Snow Flower and Lily was inspiring. It survived over their lives despite differences in their circumstances and misunderstandings. It was a very good book and I am glad to have read it.
I gave this book 5 stars. It was a good story and taught me about the Chinese culture and especially about Chinese women and their relationships. I received this book from a friend, but you can get your copy from your local library or here from Amazon or here from Barnes & Noble.

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