Friday, May 13, 2011

"For my entire life I longed for love. I knew it was not right for me — as a girl and later as a woman — to want or expect it, but I did, and this unjustified desire has been at the root of every problem I have experienced in my life." - Lily

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

253 pages

GenreHistorical Fiction; Literature; China

SummarySnow Flower and the Secret Fan is told from the perspective of a girl named Lily, effectively chronicling her life from childhood to old age in nineteenth-century China.  The book focuses on many aspects of historical Chinese culture, but at its core, it revolves around the relationship between Lily and her laotong, or “old same,” Snow Flower.

Review:  The thing that immediately drew me to this book was, once again, the cover.  I’m kind of fascinated by Asia, and when I saw the pretty fan, I knew I had to pick this book up.  Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

I found Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to be thoroughly engrossing, and I could barely pull myself away from its pages.  The book was incredibly heartbreaking most of the time, and I kept reading along with the hope that things would get better for the characters therein.  I found See’s writing style to be quite engaging, and I especially liked the sections in which Snow Flower and Lily were weaving poetry onto the fans.

One of the things I found really interesting about this book was the attention paid to foot binding.  I learned about this practice a few years ago but hadn’t really done an in-depth exploration, and to see the girls suffer through it was incredibly sad, yet eye-opening.  In the same vein, the treatment of females throughout the book was quite poignant, and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the characters who were raised to feel as if they were worth nothing.

Before reading this, I had never heard of a laotong friendship, and I really enjoyed seeing the strength of the relationship between Lily and Snow Flower.  While things weren’t always cut and dry with them and sometimes deceit was involved, in the end, they were always there for each other.  

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was an emotional roller-coaster, but definitely worth the ride.  If you’re interested in nineteenth-century China, or if you just like to read about relationships between people, definitely give it a try.

Rating: 4/5

More Books by Lisa SeeShanghai Girls, Peony in Love, Red Princess series

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