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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Lisa See

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Bloomsbury

Published : 2006

Copyright : Lisa See 2006

ISBN-10 : PB 0-7475-8292-0
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-7475-8292-2

Publisher's Write-Up

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 extraordinary 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 mesmerising novel filled with colour, fascinating detail and heartfelt drama.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nadine (230806) Rating (8/10)

Review by Nadine
Rating 8/10
This was a lucky find. It came recommended by a newspaper reviewer and it sounded like a nice holiday read, so I gave it a try. I found it enchanting.

It’s the story of a girl from a poor family in nineteenth century rural China. The rules of her society mean that she has few opportunities in life, and even fewer choices. Her only option is obedience and subservience, and her only hope is that she might raise her status by making a good marriage and producing sons.

In order to achieve this, she must first endure the agony of foot binding. Refusal is unthinkable… as this would mean no marriage, no status, and an existence as little more than a slave.

Fortunately she is a brave and spirited character… eager to achieve everything she can in her limited world. She also has the good fortune to be born with an almost identical horoscope to that of a relatively well-born girl in a neighbouring village. According to the custom, this means that the two girls are allowed to form a rare and special partnership known as Laotong, which improves the social standing and eligibility of both.

A lifelong, devoted friendship develops between the two girls, and we follow the ups and downs of their lives through foot binding, marriage, political upheaval, and ultimately tragedy, while learning intriguing details about rural life and society in China. The history is fascinating, and the story is presented in a mesmerising, almost ethereal style.

To us, with our western culture of equal opportunities and human rights, it is almost unthinkable that these girls should accept their lot in life without question. Barbaric customs and abominable unfairness were just facts of life to them. This book certainly instils a sense of gratitude for our privileged lifestyle.

Be warned though – it’s a tearjerker. Not one to read in public if you have a tendency to blub, like I do!

Despite that, it’s delightful. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha.
Nadine (23rd August 2006)

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