Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See was originally published in 2005. My paperback copy has 269 pages. I was totally transported back in time by this book and very highly recommend it. Although a case could be made that the inclusion of many more diverse and historically accurate details in a larger book would have made it perfect, I am still satisfied with the direction See chose to take and the details she chose to focus on. It makes the book more accessable to more people. (Although some of us might tackle that six hundred page novel, many people won't.) Rating: 4.5

Synopsis from book cover:
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

"I am what they call in our village 'one who has not yet died' - a widow, eighty years old." first sentence

"I am old enough to know too well my good and bad qualities, which were often one and the same." pg. 3

"By the time I was forty, the rigidity of my footbinding had moved from my golden lilies to my heart, which held on to injustices and grievances so strongly that I could no longer forgive those I loved and those who loved me." pg. 4

"The girl is indeed very lovely, but golden lilies are far more important in life than a pretty face. A lovely face is a gift from heaven, but tiny feet can improve social standing."....If your daughter's feet end up as I imagine, I can rely on a generous fee being paid by the groom's family. You will also be receiving goods from them in the form of a bride-price." pg. 21

"I also knew the difference between nei - the inner realm of the home - and wai - the outer realm of men - lay at the heart of Confucian society....the domestic sphere is for women and the outer sphere is for men....I also understood that two Confucian ideals ruled our lives. The first was the Three Obediences: 'When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son.' The second was the Four Virtues, which delineate women's behavior, speech, carriage, and occupation: 'Be chase and yeilding, calm and upright in attitude; be quiet and agreeable in words; be restrained and exquisite in movements; be perfect in handiwork and embroidery.' pg. 24

"Aunt instructed me on the special rules that govern nu shu." pg. 25

"We were still young enough to believe that our kind hearts would win over any difficulties with our mothers-in-law." pg. 69

"Aunt continued to teach us nu shu, but we also learned from Snow Flower, who brought new characters with her every time she visited." pg. 69

1 comment:

Literary Feline said...

This was my favorite book the year I read it. I loved the historical aspects and the description of the relationship between the two friends. Thanks for bringing back the memories!