Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Book Review
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
is a wonderfully rewarding book to let yourself become immersed in. The characters were believable, the setting and backgrounds were well researched, and the belief systems of the time were accurate. Although many of the ideals would be upsetting to see in our culture, the reader becomes more sympathetic to the actions and emotions of the women involved because of the world they live in. Lisa See did remarkable job describing their culture which, in turn, allows the reader to understand Lilyís motives and emotional responses. It was a work of art.
Lily, a young child from a poor family, was silently ecstatic to know that she might be paired with an "Old Same". Most girls were bonded with a family of sworn sisters to be best friends for life. But to be paired with one laotong (Old Same), was something very special. It meant that her life had paired with the life of another girl in many ways such as her birth date and birth hour, the number of siblings and more. The matchmaker of her town was making this special match, one that would ensure her marriage into a high status family, all because of her "special feet". Once bound, her feet could potentially be perfect.
Lily longed for love and to be loved. She has not experienced love in her own family. She was, after all, only a worthless second daughter. Sons were the only ones truly loved in a family. She was worried, however, that her Old Same might not love her. She had been paired with Snow Flower, a young girl from a very wealthy family. She was matched to someone of higher status. But when the two girls met, they had an immediate connection.
The two Old Sames stayed connected through the art of Nu Shu, a written language for women and by women only. It was a secret written language which only women could read. They began their courtship by writing on the folds of a fan. They would send regular letters in Nu Shu back and forth, but when the occasion was special, one would add a new inscription on their secret fan.
Lily and Snow Flower loved each other deeply. Together they braved foot binding, preparation for marriage and leaving their natal families, dealing with new husbands and new in-laws, children, love and loss. Through their lives, Lily loved Snow Flower more and more. She is constantly worried about her, especially after we learn that Snow Flower has married into a lower family. Lily not only worries about the state of Snow Flower, but also if she still loves her Old Same and much as Lily loves Snow Flower. Itís a constant question in the back of Lilyís mind throughout their lives together.
After a sad letter was written to Lily by Snow Flower after the loss of her son and many sad events, Lily misunderstood what was written and their friendship was abruptly ended. In the end, Lily learned of the misunderstanding but it was already too late. She also learned of the love that Snow Flower felt for her all along, she just never realized it. When both women had loved each other, neither one could show it in ways the other would understand. Snow Flower never knew how much Lily truly loved her, and Lily though Snow flower had abandoned her. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read the last few pages. If only Lily had not been so stubborn.
I loved not only the love story between two women, but also the story about their culture. The foot binding, arranged marriages and friendships, the degradation of women, the cruelty of in-laws and the sadness of leaving home. It was exquisitely written. I am forever a 'fan' of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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