Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I got Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See for Christmas.  In telling my brother in law about it, I called it a “chick book set in 19th century China”.  Which is accurate, but not really a good description.   In all, I’d say this is highly recommended.  (And don’t keep reading unless you want major plot points revealed.)

It’s a book about friendship, about the lifelong ties that keep us going, about trust, about family.  It’s about women living in what appears to be a man’s world.  At the age of six, Lily and Snow Flower are matched by a village matchmaker as “old sames” – lao tong, women matched as friends for life.  For Lily, this is a chance for upward mobility for her peasant family…  since the book is narrated by Lily, we don’t exactly know what’s in it for Snow Flower who hails from a more prosperous family and village than her.  Their feet are bound on the same day (it was the pliability of Lily’s feet that even made the lao tong match a possibility), Snow Flower visits Lily’s home regularly.  In time, Lily is matched into the head family of the town in which Snow Flower lives and discovers Snow Flower’s secret – her family was once wealthy, but her father became an opium addict and they have lost EVERYTHING.  Snow Flower has been betrothed to a butcher.

The young women’s lives progress through good and bad, conflict, everything.  Lily’s status rises, Snow Flower’s falls.  In the end, however, friendship does triumph.


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