Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See
Random House, 2005
272 pages
Historical Fiction
Personal Copy

Summary in a Sentence:

Friends Snow Flower and Lily find solace in their bond as they face isolation, arranged marriages, loss, and motherhood in nineteenth-century China.

My Thoughts:

I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. Shame on me. This book was wonderful, lyrical, entertaining - all the makings of a great novel.  I was transported to 19th century China as I read the words of Lily and her experiences with footbinding, marriage, and her lifelong friendship (laotong) with Snow Flower. Chinese women in this period of China's history lived a rather secluded life, almost always separated from men. They even had their own written language, nu shu, which is spotlighted throughout the novel.

The aspect of the novel that most affected me were the detailed descriptions of the footbinding process that most Chinese girls endured in the early years of their lives. This process was incredibly painful and basically handicapped the women's physical movement for the rest of their lives.

Question for my readers: Did See's descriptions of footbinding remind you of any Western traditions -- crazy things we are willing to do in the name of beauty?


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(Apparently I'm the only person living who hasn't read this one! I'm just listing a few reviews here, because way too many people have read this for me to list everyone...)

25 comments:

Marie said...

I need to read this, right? I have it, or I think I do. Sometimes it's hard to keep track! As far as crazy things we do for beauty, I think the little things are the funniest, like how I'm really fussy about the shape of hairbrush I use. :-)

Lula O said...

Thanks for reminding me about this one. I really like the good earth, and this one looks very similar.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Marie~ Yep. You do :) This one sat on my shelves for years before I finally picked it up. I think sometimes when books are really popular, I like to give them some time for all the hoopla to blow over, you know?

Julie said...

I read this book several years ago and absolutely loved it! I'm glad you enjoyed it as well. I wasn't as impressed with Peony in Love, but I am anxious to read Shanghi Girls.

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I read this 2-3 yrs ago. Loved this one. The descriptions of footbinding were, well, painful!! As the mother of a daughter of similar age, I can't imagine doing something like that to her.
As to your question about Western tradtions -- two words -- Manolo Blahnik!

Icedream said...

I read this one a few years ago and although I don't like to choose favorite books, it's on my
"favorite books to recommend" list. :) I loved it!
As far as painful practices- hair removal waxing.

Aarti said...

I read this some years ago and while I liked it, I didn't LOVE it. I think I was grimacing through a great many of the binding descriptions!

Literary Feline said...

I am so glad you liked this book. It's one of my all-time favorites. The foot binding description in the book was painful just reading about!

I'm drawing a blank as to Western traditions that are just as crazy. I'm sure there are some though. Think of all the old medicines and remedies people used to use to cure illnesses. Some were frightening by today's standards.

Lisa said...

I still haven't gotten to this one; looks like I need to get this one soon.

Serena said...

This is the book that I hope to read next after reading Shanghai Girls.

brizmus said...

I know! Wasn't the footbinding in this just revolting?!? I tried to make my mom read it, as it is one of my favorite books, but she couldn't get past that to finish the book.
I remember at the time, it made me think of several western traditions, but I can't think of anything right now.
tattoos, perhaps. really high heels, though that's not one the same level.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Yeah, I have a feeling some readers will not be able to handle the descriptive language of the footbinding scenes. I just don't have a very weak stomach, I suppose. And, I already knew the basics of the subject before I read the book. That definitely helps.

Booksnyc said...

I haven't read anything by Lisa See yet bad feel that I am very late to the party!

I can't think of a Western tradition in the name of beauty that is as horrific as foot binding. Waxing seems pretty barbaric at times but there is no permanent damage as there is with foot binding!

Amused said...

Glad you liked it! I read this late last year and loved it too. I really found the descriptions fascinating as it was a part of Chinese culture that I didn't know a lot about and I loved reading about the two girls friendship. Great review!

Diane said...

I so LOVED this story; the foot binding part was awful though. This is one of those rare books that I will probably re-read at some point.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Good point....how is foot binding any worse than the corset or plastic surgery? I haven't yet read a Lisa See book, but this one is tops on my list when I get around to it (hopefully soon!).

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I was thinking along the lines of plastic surgery as well, or perhaps anorexia...

Nymeth said...

You're not the only person who hasn't read this! I've yet to read any Lisa See, though I've been meaning to for ages. This sounds like a book I'd love, though I'm sure I'd find the descriptions of foot-binding horrifying too. I can't help but think of cosmetic surgery, particularly high-risk procedures like liposuction that have been known to cost young women their lives...

StephanieD said...

Heidi Montag comes to mind. Botox - still don't get why anyone would willingly have poison be injected into them. Eeeeew.

For anyone who hasn't read this book - don't wait anymore. It has got to be one of the best historical fiction that I've ever read. Stayed with me for a long time.

mel u said...

I just finished Shaighai Girls by Lisa See and cannot wait to read this book and Peony Flowers-great review

Wanda said...

Well, it's cold enough to see my breath today so I'm pretty sure I'm still alive and I haven't read this book yet either. ;) But I want to ...

Michelle said...

I haven't read this, either, but several people have recommended it. And with all the buzz surrounding "Shanghai Girls," Lisa See is everywhere!

Cym Lowell said...

Thanks for linking up! I tweeted this review...

-CYM

Anna said...

After reading and loving Shanghai Girls, I told myself I have to read more Lisa See. This one is on my list! It sounds fascinating.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

misskallie2000 said...

I had forgotten about the foot binding but it was a horrid thing to do to young girls. This is like today when women wear 3-4" heels throwing their spine out of alinement and ruining their feet. They will be in pain the rest of their lives.

Great review. Though I have not read any of Lisa See's books I would love to read this one and maybe ck out the others.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com