“When I knew I couldn’t suffer another moment of pain, and tears fell on my bloody bindings, my mother spoke softly into my ear, encouraging me to go one more hour, one more day, one more week, reminding me of the rewards I would have if I carried on a little longer. In this way, she taught me how to endure — not just the physical trials of footbinding and childbearing but the more torturous pain of the heart, mind, and soul.”Snow Flower & the Secret Fan – Lisa See
In Summary of Snow Flower & the Secret Fan
“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 laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.” —Goodreads
WARNING: footbinding (graphic), domestic violence, child abuse, death, miscarriage & infertility, unsafe abortion, drug abuse, violence against women
READ IF YOU LIKE: historical fiction, women’s empowerment, learning about other cultures, stories about sisterhood/female bonds
|Writing style is filled with imagery and metaphors||Sometimes the plot drags and it’s densely written, which makes the pacing slow|
|Builds an emotional connection to the women in the story||Slightly erotic relationship between Snow Flower and Lily seems unnecessary|
|Provides unique insight into another culture by focusing primarily on the women|
“Snow Flower was my old same for life. I had a greater and deeper love for her than I could ever feel for a person who was my husband.”
Every time their feet broke, my heart broke a little more.
Snow Flower & the Secret Fan is a captivating, yet gruesomely honest, look into the world of footbinding in remote, nineteenth-century China. While I wish the characterization had more depth to Snow Flower and the other characters – which may have been accomplished if the story was in third person rather than first – it’s difficult to not feel a connection and loyalty to Lily and Snow Flower.
These two girls – and eventually women – truly represent the sanctity of friendships and female bonds, especially when developed in the face of hardship.
Do take the warnings listed above seriously, as this book is not for the queasy. Footbinding is disturbing, so naturally these sections of the book are, as well. This novel provides a perspective that is unusually raw when it comes to this topic that people may easily overlook and like to forget.
Forgetting, however, does not honor victims and opens up the possibility for history to repeat itself.
I do wish that Lisa See went more in-depth about the secret language meant for the women…
How did the men not learn it?
How did it go unnoticed?
These are things I would’ve liked to learn more about. Women truly are resilient and I eat that up in books any chance that I get!
If you want an eye-opening, historical fiction novel, this one is a great choice!
Snow Flower & the Secret Fan Book Information
- Published: 2009
- Publisher: Random House
- ISBN: 9780812980356
- Format: Paperback
- Length: 277 pages