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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel Paperback – Feb 21 2006

27 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (Feb. 21 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812968069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968064
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women—here between Lily and Snow Flower—that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Lily at 80 reflects on her life, beginning with her daughter days in 19th-century rural China. Foot-binding was practiced by all but the poorest families, and the graphic descriptions of it are not for the fainthearted. Yet women had nu shu, their own secret language. At the instigation of a matchmaker, Lily and Snow Flower, a girl from a larger town and supposedly from a well-connected, wealthy family, become laotong, bound together for life. Even after Lily learns that Snow Flower is not from a better family, even when Lily marries above her and Snow Flower beneath her, they remain close, exchanging nu shu written on a fan. When war comes, Lily is separated from her husband and children. She survives the winter helped by Snow Flower's husband, a lowly butcher, until she is reunited with her family. As the years pass, the women's relationship changes; Lily grows more powerful in her community, bitter, and harder, until at last she breaks her bond with Snow Flower. They are not reunited until Lily tries to make the dying Snow Flower's last days comfortable. Their friendship, and this tale, illustrates the most profound of human emotions: love and hate, self-absorption and devotion, pride and humility, to name just a few. Even though the women's culture and upbringing may be vastly different from readers' own, the life lessons are much the same, and they will be remembered long after the details of this fascinating story are forgotten.–Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Tardif on Nov. 13 2006
Format: Paperback
Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a deeply personal look into the lifelong friendship of two nineteenth-century Chinese women--a friendship that began when they were paired together as laotongs or 'old sames', what we might refer to as 'soul sisters'. Lily and Snow Flower send messages back and forth, written in the secret women's language of nu shu. Hidden in the folds of a fan or on delicate handkerchiefs, the messages linked these two women together in a friendship that was more powerful than a marriage.

Through the decades, Lily, the narrator, suffers many hardships and challenges. At the early age of seven, she and her laotong endure the common practice of footbinding. The author paints a vivid picture of this ancient torture, used to determine a girl's worth--especially regarding marriage. Lily and Snow Flower are bound by ritual and by their growing friendship and reliance on one another. And then something happens that rips at the core of their friendship.

Betrayal, misunderstandings and anger lead to hurt feelings and separation. Forgiveness is needed. But can these women learn to forgive and let go of old pain? Or will they let their lifelong friendship die?

This wonderful, loving and tragic story of friendship and betrayal will teach the reader much about Chinese traditions. The stunning description of the lands, the sights and smells, paints vivid images upon the reader's mind. But it is the loving friendship of Lily and Snow Flower that will grip your heart and fill it with yearning to have a laotong of your own. What a powerful and emotional story!

~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Prairie Girl TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Jan. 25 2010
Format: Paperback
What I like about this book is that the topic is totally new for me--secret female writing shared amongst Chinese women. I also liked that although the story takes place in the 1800's, the language is modern and easy to read. You learn a lot about Chinese culture in this book without it feeling like a text book. The book is longer than it appears because the font is very small.

The language is at once harsh and beautiful. The names of the girls--Lily, Snow Flower, Beautiful Moon, etc--are so soft and beautiful, and yet, what they experience--foot binding, arranged marriages, being "a worthless girl"--is so harsh and heartbreaking.

The story centers around Lily and Snowflower, her "old same"-- a girl matched to her to be friends for life. The story follows their growth from young women to old age, and how their friendship changes and develops. The girls write to each other in nu shu--female writing shared and known only by females--and exchange messages back and forth. While they are matched as "old sames" their lives go on to take very different paths.

I found the story interesting and informative, a refreshing break from everything else I have been reading lately.

Amazon has a "look inside" feature on this book with quite a substantial excerpt--check it out, and if you find yourself reading the whole thing (as I did) give it a buy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 20 2007
Format: Paperback
While the story is a bit slow and drags at time, the look into the relationship between two women who are sworn as children to be lifelong friends, laotong or old sames, is very compelling. And you will learn WAY MORE about the process of foot binding than you ever wanted to know.

Well worth spending a few hours reading about the relationship between these two girls as they matured, married as arranged by their families, and sharing their joys and sorrows.

Four stars for the wonderful depictions of 19th Century life of women in China, three stars for the slow paced storyline.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book for a book club meeting I will be attending. I do not think I would have read this book otherwise.

I do not hink that I was the target audience for this book. A story that is albout the secret life of women? I am sure that the author does not mind a man reading it, but women will enjoy the book more. There is only scant mention of the male characters and their names are hardly used.

I did enjoy the book. The author told a wonderful story. The character development. The main character, who narates the story, is very well developed. Through her eyes, we see her intrepretation of the other character, whether correct or not.

The story was very well developed told over many years. There are many themes that the author touches upon. The importantance of a good friend throughout your life. The need for intimacy. That we can learn from others, not matter what each others circumstances might me. The need for honesty in a relationship and how a misinterpreted word can destroy great accomplishment.

WE will have a good discussion at the book club. I am the only male in it. I can see there will be a lot of discussion on the footbinding and what constitutes beauty. I can see discussions on what is expected of a woman in society. Could be a bi of man bashing.

I enjoyed the book. I may not have been the targe
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is probably the best of Lisa See's works that I have so far read.
It is a biography of a Chinese girl from 19th century China. She comes from what we would call the lower middle class, and lives in a remote area of southern Hunan province. She lives a traditional life of bound feet, arranged marriages, and complete subservience to fathers, husbands and sons.
Foot binding started at about 6 years of age, and every tenth girl died from this attempt to stop the feet from growing by breaking bones and creating small, tiny feet for a mature woman. This seemed to be the highest aphrodisiac for men and the way to a good marriage or to a marriage at all. Marriages were arranged very early, and girls were constantly assured of their unworthiness and told what a burden they were for their families. The birth of a girl was always unwelcome, as everyone wanted to have only sons and more sons still.
Partnership in a marriage was not to be hoped for, so the only way to any intimacy for a woman was a bosom friend, the "same sames", other girls, who would become friends for life. It was not just anyone, who can be your LAOTONG, or the same same; there had to be signs, like the height, date of birth and many other things to concur.
All pre-pubertal girls in the world want to have a reliable girl friend, but in the highly class conscious society of old China, even such a relationship had to be half legal, arranged by a professional person, who had similar duties to those of a matchmaker.
The oppressed women of the time and place even created their own language, which, actually, was already old in the 19th century.
The heroine Lily, during her long life, rose much higher in the social scale than her laotong Snow Flower, while in their childhood it had been otherwise.
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