In January I was invited to join a book club. I have always wanted to be in a book club, hoping that the accountability would motivate me to read more. I was correct! I have read one and half books since January. I love reading and now I have a group of wonderful ladies that I have to stay accountable to! At my last (first for me) meeting we decided to read “Snow Flower And The Secret Fan” by Lisa See. The description drew me in immediately…
“Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.
In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.”
Snow Flower And The Secret Fan is about two girls who have an arranged friendship that is bound by contract. This relationship is called Laotong. The story tells of the ups and downs Lily and Snow Flower have in their lives together and apart. It reveals how their relationship fares through the test of time and hardships. All the while taking you into the mysterious lives of ancient Chinese and how they lived.
I love a good story that takes you to distant lands and times. The history in ancient China has always intrigued me. My interest started in high school when we studied the Terracotta Army. How can you not be intrigued by a huge army created out of clay and sand?! The art, buildings, sculptures, customs, traditions and way of life for the ancient Chinese is so interesting and questionable in my mind. When reading about their culture I am almost always left with the question of why? Makes me wonder what we do in our culture that others around the world or in the future will look back and wonder why we do what we do.
The tradition of foot binding, is discussed in Snow Flower And The Secret Fan. To see images of what a foot that has gone through this process looks like (warning graphic images) CLICK HERE. I cannot imaging the pain these girls endured. I even more so cannot fathom putting my child through this torture which was all for beauty and status. I realize that although heartbreaking for a mother so see her child go through this pain, it would be much worse to allow their feet to stay “big”. The status that is created with tiny feet was worth the pain and agony the girls were wrought with. While reading about the Chinese quest for beauty I questioned what we do currently in our own cultures for beauty. We have methods of completely numbing the pain these days but we still voluntarily go under the knife, laser, put toxic chemicals under and on our skin to change our appearance. Why do we do so much for appearance? Why is appearance held at such high value?
Lisa See is an amazing writer. She is one of those lovely authors who is able to capture you from the start and keep you going, craving more. I came home after book club last month and started reading this book immediately. I hit page 100 when I realized I REALLY needed to get to sleep! I love any writer who can grab my attention like that! I enjoyed her descriptions and how she takes you right where the story is! You can see the details of their lives, taste the food and smell the world around you. I believe Lisa’s ability to take your your fives senses through this book came from her actually doing field study research and being there herself. It is truly a well written book!
Snow Flower And The Secret Fan has now been made into a movie. The movie was inspired from the book. The movie is very different from the book and the details are not the same. I did appreciate getting to see what things must have looked like back then in a little more detail then my own mind’s canvas. I think people should read the book before watching the movie. My hubs sat down and watched the movie with me and I had to explain a lot. The story line in the movie is very broken up and does not follow the same story as the book. If I were to pick one or the other I say skip the movie and just read the book, it was much better!
After discussing Snow Flower And The Secret Fan at book club I can see how the story meant and said many different things to each lady who read it. There were five ladies there and I believe we rated it at a 4.5. Everyone enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. I gave it a five. I would recommend it to anyone. I deeply appreciated this book and the friendship in it. I myself have what you might consider a modern day “laotong” my dear friend and I have been “sisters” for nearly 20 years. There were many times I thought of us as I read this and for me that brought a different perception to the story. In conclusion you need to read Snow Flower And The Secret Fan and the author, Lisa See, gets a big thumbs up from me!
Are you reading any books at the moment? Have you read any of Lisa See’s books or this book? What did you think? Tell me in a comment below.
Have a great day and go read a book!
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