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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerfully Emotional Story of Friendship and Betrayal
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...
Published on Nov. 13 2006 by Cheryl Tardif

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars In Darkest China
this book has some interest as an item of cultural anthropology (? comparative ethnography) but, by writing it in the form of the memoir of a nineteenth century Chinese woman, the author has made it less interesting than it could have been as a straight essay. The protagonist, Lily, is wholly passive. Her suffering is intensified by two wholly impersonal events : an...
Published on April 19 2009 by david hewitt


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerfully Emotional Story of Friendship and Betrayal, Nov. 13 2006
This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and engaging, Jan. 25 2010
By 
Prairie Girl (Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look at 19th century China, May 20 2007
By 
Misfit (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Dec 3 2008
"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" occurs in China during the eighteen hundreds. Lily the narrator of the story has reached the age of eighty years and is recounting her life. She wants forgiveness from those who have passed on before her, especially from her laotong Snow Flower. A laotong is a lifetime relationship, that is formed between two females and the commitment runs deeper than the bond between a husband and wife.

Foot binding is explained in explicit detail near the beginning of the book. I was riveted to this chapter and read most of it with my mouth hanging open in terror. If you decide not to read the book, make sure you at least read the chapter on foot binding; it will change your perception of life.

The whole point of foot binding was to make the female more provocative and attractive for her husband; perfect feet also provided better choices for a high-quality husband. Lily's mother is able to create perfect feet during the foot binding process for Lily, but she also suffers a tragedy with another one of her daughters during the process. When feet are bound some suffer severe damage that leaves them unable to walk unaided and one in ten die from the procedure due to infection.

Snow Flower and Lily have an intriguing relationship and the book revolves around their lives from when they are young girls to when they are married and baring children and then to their grave. Lily enjoys the more providential life and has a hard time accepting Snow Flower's life. Lily believes Snow Flower's problems are of her own doing. It is not until the end, that Lily sees the true and bitter facts of Snow Flower's life. Lily's final words for Snow Flower are: "But if the dead continue to have the needs and desires of the living, then I'm reaching out to Snow Flower and the others who witnessed it all. Please hear my words. Please forgive me."

This book does not speak highly of males; the males in the book due to the era of time treat the women like property. The origin of foot binding is controversial and no set reason for the beginning of the practice has been found, but I think it may have to do with controlling women, for in binding their feet they are basically handicapped for life and have to rely on their husbands for everything.

I enjoyed this book, but I found the depth of the characters lacking, I just did not become overly attached to them. Creating new best friend in books is one of the reasons I read, but while a great read, I did not make any best friends in "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" just acquaintances.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Snow Flower and the Secret Fan...a must read!, June 13 2006
By 
N. Jeannotte "nikkij73" (Victoria, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Paperback)
I just finished this book and loved it! Stylistically it reminded me of Amy Tan's writing, with the focus on the evolution of two women's relationship in historic China. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the cultures customs, but to see the relationship of the main characters grow, develop and change throughout the book and their lives was very touching and real. To live in an environment where your worth was judged on how many sons you could give birth to, and that as women, they were so limited in their lives due to rules and their inferior roles in society, maintaining relationships was a challenge.

I would recommend this for many reasons, but I think the enduring love and commitment between friends crosses all generation and cultural gaps, we can all learn something from this book about what is truly important in life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and worth while, Feb. 20 2007
By 
S. Yiu - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Paperback)
The moment I noticed this I was instantly drawn to it. I read the back cover, skimmed through the pages until I finally decided to purchase it. If you enjoy stories like The Joy Luck Club, The Good Earth then you will definitely be interested in this. It took me into a new world, let me view how life was once lived in China and also told of a love and friendship. I often found myself paralleling Snow Flower's and Lily's relationship to that of my own and my best friend. Truly an amazing book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Snow Flower and the secret fan, Dec 6 2010
This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Paperback)
The author instantly transports you into another time and world unknown to you. It feels as though you see first hand of everlasting friendship and the ancient traditions of another culture. You can almost imagine certain moments in the book as if you were there. It is facinating reading about everything women of that era went through their entire lives and how the two friends intwined their fates together. This is a excellent book and is one of my favorites from the author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Passion for friendship is Universal, Nov. 28 2007
By 
N. Jomha - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Paperback)
Lisa See's novel was given to me by my best friend of 30 years and I immediately knew why. Although set in a place and time that I have never really given much thought to, the story of the female passion for friendship is universal.

Deeply humanistic and moving, the story of Snow Flower and Lily gave me serious pause for thought while at the same time enlightening me on the fascinating, albeit horrific, history of the Chinese women.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and Beautiful, April 1 2006
By 
C. M. Cousineau (Montreal, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Paperback)
I found this novel fascinating. With tenderness and honesty it vivdly paints the sorrowful world of women in 19th century China. It informs the reader about a distant culture and imparts an understanding of human psychology and spirituality. Once started I couldn't put it down. It was haunting and I think it will stay with me for a very long time. It honors all women and the hardship they have endured.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mrs. Q: Book Addict : Visit my blog for newest reviews., Jan. 21 2007
This review is from: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (Paperback)
I loved this book, I thought it was very interesting. I could not put it down. I recently took a Chinese History class, and this furthered my understanding of the culture. It took my facts learned in class and brought it to life. It was beautifully written, and an amazing story. The history fits in very well, and the story is believable. I'll recommend it to fellow book lovers.
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel by Lisa See (Paperback - Feb. 21 2006)
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