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on 14 October 2014
This book was beautiful and sad and opened my eyes to the pain and subjugation that women suffered in China up to comparatively recent times. The barbaric ritual of foot binding on children just seven or eight years old was brought to life here in graphic description and I shuddered to think of what terrible pain these children must have gone through, not only as the bones in their feet were broken but also what complications they suffered all their lives because they were never able to walk properly. And all because men liked women to have feet 7cm long! Grotesque. And after all these sufferings, still their sorrows didn't end. Married out to men that they didn't know, they were forced to work constantly for their in-laws and then treated abominably if they gave birth to daughters and not sons. The story of Lily and Snow Flower is beautiful and poignant - meeting as children and becoming laotangs (old sames), they wrote to each other for years in a language that only women could understand and lthough in later years their position in society was totally reversed, their love for each other from childhood really never died. A book really and truly worth reading.
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on 25 February 2012
Initially I read this book because I have a certain interest in novels set in the middle-east and I knew there was a film coming out of this one which I was vaguely interested in seeing. Plus it was the daily Kindle deal on Amazon so I had little excuse not to buy it.

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.
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on 20 February 2012
I loved Memoirs of a Geisha and thought the atmospheric writing skills could not be surpassed BUT Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is SO enthralling that it is even more so.
The reader is invited (an offer one would not refuse) to stand among the people in a desperately grueling for all but especially for women culture; gaining a new perspective of the origins. We grow up with her and get carried along seeing what she sees, tasting, smelling and most of all feeling the emotive culture of her and the people in this land in this era.
The strength of the women in this cultural setting is staggering - makes me (even more than I already do) count my blessings to have had such an easy life by comparison.
It has been some time since I've been so thoroughly absorbed in a book and I sobbed my way through the story's climactic revelations. The heartbreaking honesty Lily has to face (and live with thereafter!) about her actions is so simply told, it is incredibly inspiring
Truly thought provoking and Heartily recommended to women of all adult ages - and perhaps some men too
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on 22 June 2012
I had great hopes for this book, given the complimentary reviews from other esteemed authors such as Arthur Golden, and am glad to report that I was in no way disappointed as i read the last words of the beautifully written novel.

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...
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on 26 December 2015
This was a beautifully written book about female friendship and hardship, I adored Lily and Snow Flower, they were amazing characters with much depth. The story itself is sad and wary, what the women had to go through and put up with just because they were born women is truly upsetting.
The one criticism I have with this novel is it felt rushed, certain parts that could have been more interesting and in-depth seem to whiz past, but it didn't hinder my overall enjoyment of this beautiful book.
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on 17 January 2012
Coming from a Chinese background, I had high hopes for this book and was not disappointed at all!

Chinese symbology, astronomy, superstitions, old wives tales, feng shui, yin-yang and age-old tradition is what kept this book alive. Readers from non-chinese backgrounds who do not have a familiarity of the above may find parts of the book quite confusing and hard to relate to.
This story, on more than one occasion made me think back to my own childhood, upbringing and chinese background. In the modern world, traditions, rules and "the way it is" has been washed down dramatically, but being raised in a world where some of these still apply makes this book extremely significant for me.

Traditions such as matching of dates and zodiac signs are still common today with the Chinese, especially when planning births, weddings, funerals (the 3 big dates of life).
The importance of bearing sons (although, not as imperative as those times) still lives on today. As I grew up, there were many discussions I overheared of families being upset with bearing a daughter instead of a son. How wives and husbands would try again and again until they get a son to carry and honour the family name. Now married and have reached a 'child-bearing-age', I am constantly reminded by family and friends, especially of the older generation to bear a son and why it is important! (I of course have no preference to the sex of a child)

I think Lisa See did a remarkable job in portraying the importance of power and money and how it can sometimes destroy a person. Again, I am extremely familiar with this concept as we were drilled as children to work hard and play little and that money especially will be the answer to our woes. Lily is a victim of such example. She somehow changed from being a happy, loveable and innocent character to an extremely powerful, wealthy and cold person. It was extremely poignant when Lily mocked Snow Flower infront of an audience. It proves that power and money gains you 'respect' regardless if said person is at fault.

I associated mostly with Lily's relationship with her mother. I can emphathise completely with Lily (as I'm sure many Chinese could). It appears that Lily's mother disregarded Lily's feelings and pursues a stone-cold relationship with her. This is not uncommon even in the modern world (again, washed down). Myself and my brother grew up in a household with very little praise, a lot of verbal and physical beatings and daily critism. One of my most upsetting childhood memory was struggling to 'beat my competition' and meeting my mothers criteria of being the 'perfect daughter'. I was not academically gifted (to my mothers standards) and nor was I willing enough to be studious at all times!! We grew accustomed to this and we now know this as 'tough love'.

As much as I loved learning and growing old with Lily, I would've loved to have read more about Snow Flower. Her life went in the opposite extreme to Lily's and therefore her life struggles and battles would've made an interesting read.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It will be interesting to now watch the film (though I do not have high hopes).
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on 8 November 2011
I have this on Kindle - a shame since I'd love to lend it to my sisters. I found this incredibly absorbing and loved the depth of the narrator's reflection on a truly extraordinary life. I was worried that it might dwell too long on the misery of footbinding (which I'm not sure I could handle!) but it didn't. It certainly didn't downplay or sidestep this horrific cultural torture, but the story is about so much more - and specifically about the bond women create and the ways in which they nurture each other through a society that truly hated, feared and tormented women. It's not simplistic in its analysis of all this, however, and the story of the narrator's evolving consciousness of her own complicity with this cruelty will stay with me for a long time. Well done, Lisa See!
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on 26 March 2013
I found 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan' an easy and engaging read. The story was clear and its feminist message forceful. I think Lisa See was quite clever in the way she did not date the story or locate it into some well-know geographic situation. It was remote in time and place. She did this to highlight the timelessness and placelessness of her message. The message being of course that social life is structured withing the dominant thinking (the discourse) of the times. Apart from telling a lively story, Lisa See shows the reader how lives are subjugated and manipulated into conforming. The ideas she puts forward could be set at any time or place: the middle ages in England, parts of Africa today or the Mormon church in the US (or other fundamentalists religious groups) of tomorrow, for example. The problem with discourse is that the human subject is not aware of being part of it; It is invisible! It is considered as everyday thinking as in normal 'Common Sense'. (And we all know that common sense changes over time!)

Even though the women in the story did not like what was happening to them, they accepted what was happening... they had no choice! It was about their own survival. It never occurred to either Lily or Snowflower,(although they had seen Beautiful Moon die, the disabling pain that Snowflower's mother experienced and the disadvantage of not being able to run) to consider any change to the system that controlled their lives. The words they needed were not in their vocabulary to express anything other than reinforcing the codes of patriarchal thought. Men and women were instructed from an early age, through example, language, religious belief and superstition, punishment, codes of behaviour, and learning that there was only one way to be. If you followed that way you may be rewarded in a later life otherwise you suffered the consequences and were outcast. Observance was everything.

I liked the way it was written in the first person and See's use of reported speech creating an image that the writer was relaying and reliving her own past. She also engages the reader by asking questions and using expressions such as "You see, ...." creating a sense that the reader is a confidant.

Reading within the text I heard a strong voice which sounded as if had been translated from Chinese. I was surprised when I read up about See to discover she was an American with English as her first language. I was expecting a Chinese or Chinese-American. I thought authenticity was added to the story by the addition of Chinese vocabulary such as Laotong , jin and nu shu; as did the extracts of poetry and proverbs.

Perhaps the ending was a bit hurried and the discussion about Lady Lu taking on Snowflower's granddaughter as a servant rather abrupt but otherwise a skilled and crafted piece of writing from an excellent researcher.
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on 9 October 2013
I recently purchased this book for Book Club - it opened my eyes to the way footbinding was used in obtaining a davourable marriage for your daughters. The way was very barbaric and even though caused pain - so painful until thegirls vomited from the pain and sometimes even death.

The story is about a young girl who feels unloved by her mother for being a girl...is told she would be very marriagable when her feet were bound, she is 'joined' with Snow Flower. They are treated like girls were in their country by sewing their own shoes - each time smaller than before, all elaborately embroidered, kept in a room to learn things necessary fir married life. Once married they still live at the natal family home until they have their first child - hopefully a son.

Although hard going reading through the foot binding parts the story itself opens your eyes to the practice. The descriptions were quite vivid.....
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on 14 October 2015
Almost done with this book and I'm loving every bit. Paints a vivid picture of the struggles of being a woman in ancient China and provides gruesome details of the foot binding process. I'm Malaysian but from a pure Chinese racial background and although barely any the things lily was subjected to are enforced on me or anyone I know anymore, it was interesting reading about the subtle parallel teachings whilst growing number up that centred so much on patriarchy. Very well written.
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