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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The...

Customer Reviews

8 ratings

A great book.

Snow flower & the Secret Fan is one of my very favorites. Lisa See is a master at weaving what I consider historical fiction. I love her other books too.

Nu shu, the secret language of women beautifully explained.

The book moves slowly but beautifully and is a joy to read. You embark on a journey and you will deeply feel for Snow flower. What is the meaning of friendship in your life?

Good book

Good book but the ending fell flat for me. I'd like to read more Chinese culture books though.

Best of Lisa See

This is the book that made me a big fan of Lisa See. I loved it. I also believe it opened the door for me wanting to know more about Asian culture, especially early years. Her following book, ‘Peony in Love’ is also a favorite.

A book about love, devotion and friends

Lisa See does a wonderful job delving into early Chinese culture. I felt I were right there with Lily and Snow Flower. I this is a light read.

Great Examination of Rural 1800s China and Women

There are certain books you read that make you really think, "Thank goodness I wasn't living in THAT culture!" Snow Flower and the Secret Fan definitely falls into that category. This story traces the life of Lily, a young farmer's daughter in a very rural area of China, born in 1823. The book was very well researched, and does do its best to explain that while this life was not as free as modern culture is for women, it was in some ways "not as awful" as it could have been. Lily explains that in some areas of China, women were worked brutally hard, treated like pack animals. In her region, women were treasured. You might think this is a great thing :) However, by treasured, this meant they were isolated in a room with lattice windows, so that some light would get in but they could not be seen. This kept them safe - but trapped. To make matters worse, their beauty was determined by how tiny their feet were. This isn't just the tiny-waist of a corset. Young girls actually had their feet broken and squished, over a period of 2 years, so that an adult woman had a foot about the size of a thumb. All that was left of the foot was one big toe to balance on. It meant their gait was slow and delicate. In essence, they could never run away - and they could barely walk around to do minor chores - cooking, cleaning. So on one hand, this was a very restricted life for women. They were hidden away in an isolated room, and their broken feet were tiny and barely functional. On the other hand, a hard-working peasant woman might look on this as the life of luxury. Why couldn't *She* laze away in peace and quiet, doing embroidery and weaving? Why couldn't *She* have the excuse of tiny feet instead of slaving in the hot sun all day doing field work? So into this world of hiding-away, Lily is hooked up with a 'laotong' - or lifelong best friend. The two talk with private women-only writing, mu shu. It gives them a way to discuss the problems with their lives. There are of course misunderstandings, changes as the girls mature into women, jealousies, issues with children, and so on. I love reading books about other times and cultures, and have read many books that detail the "life was awful for women back then" situations. Foot binding was awful, and I'm certainly glad they don't do it any more. The rigid order of "boys are better than girls" and "wives are subservient to husbands" is also not a wonderful one, but this was pretty common in most cultures around the world. Both of these points were hammered a bit heavily in the book. It was fine the first five times - but re-reading it every 5th page made me really long for more details. For example, we hear hardly anything about how birth was handled, what children wore, the details of the marriage ceremony, what the various festivals mentioned were like, if they had any instruments, if they had books, pasttimes, toys, hobbies, styles of embroidery, etc. etc. These important features of life are glossed over wit

Beauty

Having traveled to China in 1986, the first year the Chinese were allowed to be tourists, too, I was overwhelmed by the beauty every where I turned. Everything seemed to be turned into art: bamboo had a thousand uses, buildings with windows whose views were artistly laid out with purpose, museums filled with truly old things (California raised I have a very new perspective I realized!). Every now and again I glimpsed something that told me there was a price paid for all the beauty. I believe Lisa See captured the undertone I'd felt. A woman walked past me and I realized her feet were bound. What did that mean? It was outlawed much earlier but here she was. She walked funny. Her feet looked shorter. But how? Lisa shared in vivid detail the pain and torture the Chinese women experienced. I glimpsed a new level for the word "worthless". I finished the book with a renewed sense of appreciation for my freedoms. The book is not only well written, the characters compelling, but it is a beautiful piece of art unto itself! I will keep my copy for that reason. I highly recommend this book.

Sympathy with Both Women and Men

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel is surely intended for any reader who likes a compelling, historically-set, moving, suspenseful story. I have been a fan of Lisa See's mysteries, and her sympathies with, and skill in creating characters of both sexes, are apparent in both the mystery plots and the present book. This plot is beautifully woven, with two women at its center, but there is compassion for both the women and the men in the nineteenth-century Chinese society the author re-creates so vividly. Lisa See obviously LIKES her characters, and she develops some understanding of and compassion for ALL of them. Her natural sensitivity, vast research--including visits and interviews in the remote region she is writing about--make her work fully convincing. Tender, celebratory, joyous, painful, heart-breaking at times-- this is a memorable, glorious book. After reading it, I found myself thinking more and more about some of the power, motivations, love, violence, and ways of communication in our twenty-first century societies. I will pass my copy along to a friend or two, but I will say "Be sure to return it."
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