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Search tags: Snow-Flower-and-the-Secret-Fan
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review 2017-01-12 00:00
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See Let's see if I can form coherent sentences yet (I've had the flu and I still feel awful)...

I've wanted to read something by Lisa See for a long time, and I finally decided to do it back in December. So, I read some reviews of a few of her books and eventually chose this one to start. It took me quite a while to get through this, but by the end I think I was enjoying it. Or maybe "enjoying" is the wrong word... I was invested in finishing might be a more accurate description of how I felt by the last 1/4.

I had so many emotions while I read this, most of them not happy feelings. I knew about foot binding, but I had never looked up all the details of how it was done, for example. I knew the center of the foot was broken somehow, but I didn't know exactly how, or about the toes. That was difficult to read about. I've had untreated broken bones in my feet and I can't imagine how much worse the foot binding must have been. I was aware of a lot of the things that happened in this book, but they were always glossed over in history classes or wherever I learned them, so reading about them in great detail wasn't a fun experience. I wouldn't say this book was boring, but it is one of those books that feels like nothing is happening, I guess. Probably because of the way the story is told, from Lily's memories.

This is not a happy book. (I feel like I've heard that Lisa See is known for not writing happy books, but I could be wrong, I'm not sure.) I would not recommend this if you tend to be very sensitive to human suffering in your books, or want a light, joyful book. Definitely look elsewhere.
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review 2016-09-20 17:06
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

 This book made me feel sick. The description of the foot binding. Ugh. It's sickening. Even worse than corsets.

I also found myself becoming frustrated with Lily's constant insistence that she was in the wrong in her actions toward Snow Flower. She was wrong at times, but Snow Flower was also wrong at times. Lily's action in The Letter of Vituperation may be been dreadful, but it was only the final cut in the severing of an already damaged friendship. Snow Flower lied about everything, then when Lily found out about Snow Flower's circumstances, Snow Flower justified her lies because she didn't want Lily to pity her, but if Lily had known about Snow Flower's troubles when they were children, then Lily would have grown used to the idea and been more able to comfort Snow Flower without showing pity. Snow Flower continued to lie to Lily even after they were married. She lied about her husband's abuse of her, her actions with her husband, and even about her health. Lily took refuge in convention whenever she became uncomfortable and didn't know how to act. If she had known the truth of Snow Flower's life when they were younger, she would have been more comfortable in her reactions to Snow Flowers troubles, but she spent years thinking that Snow Flower was rich and more eligible than herself, only to find out in a few moments how bad her friend actually had it. And I am frustrated at how Lily blamed herself for misinterpreting Snow Flower's words on the fan. Any person in the world would have looked at those words and believed what Lily believed. Because of Snow Flower's Dishonesty and Lily's ignorance in how to comfort Snow Flower without making Snow Flower feel she was being pitied, their friendship disintegrated.

This was a heartbreaking story about a friendship full of lies and misunderstandings. In many ways I hate reading stories about such damaged relationships because it's frustrating to watch the mistakes people make in relationships when you want to take them aside and tell them off for hurting their friend, but it also makes me think, and make me consider things I've done in my relationships with my friends that may have hurt them, that I didn't even realize. I wish the story would have had a happier end, but I also can't see how it could have done. There was just too much hurting on both Snow Flower and Lily's parts, for the story to come to a happy ending, though at least Snow Flower apologized to Lily before her death, and at least Lily made some reparation for her actions, to Snow Flower's son and granddaughter.

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review 2016-02-15 21:09
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is essentially the story of two women and their sworn friendship in 19th century China. I was both captivated and horrified by the life that these woman, and the others around them, had to endure. I’ve not read many books based in Chinese historical fiction, but I’ve read enough to know that the lives of women were not valued beyond their ability to provide sons and serve their husbands. What I didn’t know about was footbinding. Oh dear Lord, those poor girls. I can’t even fathom why the people of that time were driven to smash their daughter’s feet to the size of a thumb. To do this, they had to curl all toes (except the big toe) under and then the arch was broken so the ball of the foot met the heel of the foot. *shiver*

 

The main character, Lily, is matched with an ‘old same’ (or laotong) named Snow Flower. They were matched at age seven and signed a contracted that stated they would be life-long friends. It was implied that their relationship should be more precious than the marriages to their husbands. The novel spans their life and shows how their friendship evolved over time and was changed by hardships. Lily’s social standing was improved through marriage where Snow Flower’s diminished.

 

The novel is slow paced, even during the times of significant trials. However, I personally felt the pace was fitting for the integrity of the time period. Women were expected to do nothing more than chores, embroider, and sing. They were not expected to leave their homes unless traveling back to visit their families or visit with contracted friends during special occasions. Their life was slow paced.

 

While I enjoyed experiencing the friendship between Lily and Snow Flower, I never really got a good sense for how/why they loved each other so deeply. I think maybe it’s because the girls/women were raised to believe that they were not loved by anyone in their family, nor would they be loved by their future family. They were a burden from the moment they were born to the moment they died. In the case of matching two girls together as old sames, a relationship was created for the sole purpose of someone caring about you for the rest of your life. Because of this, and the fact that they were matched based on certain facts of their life, it was hard for me to determine if their love existed for the simple fact that it could, or if it developed over time as they knew each other better. The story is formatted in that it’s being told to the reader by an older Lily, so we don’t get to experience all their moments together. Those that we do get are more intimate physically (not in an inappropriate way) rather than emotionally. While I do believe that the way the friendship developed would have been true to life, I wish the reader had been given more of the experiences rather than just told of their secret conversations.

 

I also wish there would have been more about the relationship between Lily and her husband. I know it was a book about friendship, and I respect that, but I think I would have understood Lily’s dependence on Snow Flower better had we been given more knowledge of how she interacted with her husband. We were able to see the kind of man Snow Flower’s husband was, but not really Lily’s. The few moments that we did have showed him to be kind and loving. For me, I think this was a missing element of the story that could have made a much larger impact on why Lily felt the way she did and why she reacted the way she did to certain events.

 

Overall, very good book.

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text 2015-12-29 17:07
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

I read this book about a decade ago, right after it was published, in a mother-daughter book club. The story centers around the lifelong love, friendship, and sisterhood between Lily (the narrator) and Snow Flower. The two girls are bound in an eternal contract shortly after having their feet bound. The horrors of foot binding are put into context through an understanding of filial duty and Chinese traditions.

 

When I read this as a teenager, I was drawn to the ups and downs of the girls' relationship and the complicated mother-love Lily experiences. Now, as an adult, it's interesting to revisit this story and find myself connecting more to the later stages of the womens' lives and experiences. It's a lovely story of connection, loss, and the depths of our ability to forgive ourselves and others. 

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review 2015-11-09 16:41
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

Such a great story of friendship and childhood!

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