Friday, February 13, 2009

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See~★★★★

Author: Lisa See
Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
Release Date: June 28th, 2005
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In nineteenth century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu ('women's writing'). Some girls were paired with laotongs, 'old sames,' in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become 'old sames' at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, 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 lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.

Taryn's Review: Lisa See is a beautiful writer. I was mesmerized by the words she picked to string each lovely sentence together. I don't know very much about nineteenth-century China, but the book roused my curiosities about the foot-bindings the women endured (and it sounded horrific...her feet are 7 cm long afterward!). I am also eager to learn more about the lives of Chinese women who lived such a different life than the nineteenth-century American women I know so much about.

The story in the novel is good, but it was hard for me to understand Lily's reaction to her and Snow Flower's fight. To be laotongs, or old sames, I felt like Lily's harsh ending of the friendship was not characteristic with how much she had loved Snow Flower since age seven. These two adored and loved each other to the level of close sisters, yet it was all gone within moments? One could argue it is was due to Lily's status change, but it still seemed to me that true love would have prevented Lily from banishing her laotong. This kept the book at four stars for me.

I would still highly recommend the novel. Again, it was beautifully written and I found myself fully intrigued by the life of both Lily and Snow Flower, from childhood to death. They experienced a world where being a man reigned supreme and a woman's job was simply to produce the next generation of men. It was a very different world, but it's one I would invite you to explore through this novel.

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