Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

Now an old woman, Lily looks back on her life.  She tells of her family, the happiest times of her life and times of her greatest sorrow.  She lives a long life and looking back she has many regrets.  Lily is one of the lucky few girls that are paired with a laotong, "old sames"  which is a lifelong friendship that has the same importance as marriage.  They communicate using a "secret women's language" called  nu shu.  With the arrival of a message written in the language on a silk fan from Snow Flower their bond is sealed and their friendship begins.  They share  a lifetime of memories from when their feet were bound, to their marriage, to the birth of their first sons.  However, as things in their lives begin to change a misunderstanding just may break what is supposed to be an unbreakable bond.

I don't think I would normally pick up this book but my best friend, Toni, picked this one for this month's book club read.  Like a lot of books that I've read recently, I was surprised by how much I liked this one!  It was such a good yet tragic story of two friends.  I thought, because it is set in nineteenth-century China, that I would have a hard time getting through it, but I didn't.  The author did a great job at making it a story that anyone can easily read and understand.  It was great learning about the customs from a different culture and time period.  I feel like I have a new understanding of how the women thought, what they believed, and how they lived their lives.


One of the things I loved most about this  book was Lily's voice.  It reminded me of a grandmother telling the story of her life as the tone was more conversational.  I can honestly say that I was hooked from beginning to end.  I felt connected to Lily and the author did a great job at evoking emotions from the readers.  A lot of the customs were unfamiliar to me and it was clear that a lot of research went into the telling of this story.  Because of my connection with Lily, I was on her side when she found out the lies she had been told from those closest to her.  She should have been angry and hurt but what she does with those feelings left a bad taste in my mouth.  My feelings for both Lily and Snow Flower kind of reverse as the story progresses.  Despite my change of heart, I still liked the way it ended. Lily goes through many changes in her life and we are there every step of the way.  My only complaint is that we were able to get a look into Snow Flower's marriage but not much was mentioned about her own.  I wish that things could have turned out differently but, if it had, I don't think I would feel as strongly as I do about the book.


This story is very well written and dare I say beautifully tragic.  The symbolism, songs, and stories added depth to the story.  Here we have an old woman looking back on her life with regret as I'm sure is the case with a lot of women from many different backgrounds and time periods.  We all have regrets, lost loves, and things that we wish we could've done differently.  I felt like I was transported to this unfamiliar world and gained an understanding of what it must have been like for the women of the time.  I definitely can appreciate my life as a young woman living in today's world much more.  We can all learn from these two friends: forgiveness.  Though it can be a hard lesson to be learned, it's good not to hold grudges.  I recommend this book to women of all walks of life to take a look back in time and be grateful for the lives they have today. 


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4 comments:

Carissa said...

Wow! Fabulous review!!!! I haven't heard of this one, but my interest is definitely piqued now!

You always make my day when you stop by! Thank you so much!!!!

Alison said...

I read this a few years ago and don't remember a huge amount of about it. I remember that I really liked it though. I thought the information about foot binding and Chinese culture in general was fascinating.

TC said...

I have a real interest in books set in China and Japan, especially with an historical element. It sounds really interesting, I'll go and look it up.

Mad Scientist said...

I can't say that I have seen this cover before. I did start this book... then lost it! It was tramatic at the time. I need to get another copy some time.

Mad Scientist
http://madsteampunkery.blogspot.com

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