Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Paperback – 1 Sep 2005
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'A startlingly vivid novel ... so gorgeous it hurts.' -- Cosmopolitan Magazine
'Ladies, buy two copies of this wonderful book, and give one to your dearest friend.' -- The Times
'This novel is an epic journey, as exciting and believable as it is thrillingly original.' -- Sunday Express
'[An] evocative and enthralling insight into the hidden history of Chinese women.' -- Psychologies Magazine
Lily is the daughter of a humble farmer in Yongming County, and to her family is just another mouth to feed until she can be married off. But, when she is six years old she is brought before the ambitious local matchmaker who delivers some startling news: Lily is no ordinary girl. If they are bound properly, her feet will be flawless. In nineteenth-century China, where a woman's eligibility is judged by the shape and size of her feet, this is extraordinarily good luck. Lily now has the power to make a good marriage and change the fortunes of her family. But first she must undergo the agonies of footbinding, learn nu shu, the famed secret women's writing, and make a very special friend. A girl will be chosen as her 'old-same' which is a relationship almost akin to marriage and treated with as much seriousness. Her 'old-same', Snow Flower, is a wonder to Lily. She comes from a refined family and is elegant, educated, but cannot suppress her adventurous streak. Even though their worlds are far apart and they rarely see one another, the two girls develop a deep bond through their letters written in nu shu which they paint on fans and embroider on handkerchiefs.As the years go by, Lily and Snow Flower share the burden of being born female in feudal China and find comfort in their friendship until they come of age to be married. But a bitter reversal of fortune is about to change everything. "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is a story of two extraordinary women surviving in a time of strict rules and ancient customs. With the eye of a historian and the vibrancy of a true storyteller, Lisa See has written a truly mesmerizing novel filled with colour, fascinating detail and heartfelt drama. See all Product description
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I expected a bit more of a novel about China, or was it was like to be a woman in China in the nineteenth century,but, while this was an element of the story, especially early on, ultimately it was a story of friendship. Would I go as far as buying two copies so I could give one to my friend as The Times suggested? Probably not. I admired the strength of Lily and Snow Flower's friendship but actually I didn't feel like they knew each other that well. It's a little strange because they did spend a fair bit of time together on the page, and Lily (who narrates the story) frequently talks about Snow Flower, but you don't get that much of a sense of what they talk about to each other. Plus when they are both married I get the sense that actually their relationship isn't that close despite what it has battled through. I feel more like it is held up by some sort of sense of duty at least on Lily's part whereas I felt Snow Flower was more of a real friend. Despite the fact that they both fought for their friendship I saw their reasons for fighting under different lights.
I found the elements about life for Chinese women quite interesting although they were maybe a little difficult to get into a novel format without seeming a little slow. While I was interested from a historical and cultural stand point they really didn't have the markings of a great novel, and in he end I think that's what let the novel down a bit. Lots of the different elements were interesting but they weren't something that could really be made into an event for a story, except maybe the footbinding. Certainly the footbinding was one part of the novel that really got to me. The descriptions actually made me feel a little sick and it did give a sense of what it was really like in a way that the rest of the novel didn't seem to get to. There was only one other point that had a real impact on me and that seemed to be added simply to add a bit of...action I suppose, to the story. It didn't really feel like it had to happen.
I read this book because I enjoying Lisa See’s family biography “On Gold Mountain”
The story takes us on a journey with narrator and protagonist Lily, and we see her tell her story as an old woman with sad reflections of the past. She details the excruciating years of her footbinding with painful precision - so much so I cringed in parts out of pure resentment of this long-gone tradition. And she also details her beloved relationship with Snow Flower - her laotong.
The relationship between these two characters takes up most of the plot and is filled with fondness, insecurity, happiness and, most importantly, the true endurance of a 'deep-heart' friendship.
I absolutely adored this novel and the important messages it relayed as well as the historical content and culture subtly developed into the plot. The characters are flawed, but this is what makes them true to the reader and, much like 'The Kite Runner' this novel touched me as the reader in it's frank confession-style prose and redemptive tone.
Truly one to read...