Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  209,680 ratings  ·  13,403 reviews
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “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 written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate i...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published June 28th 2004)
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Jeana
Jul 11, 2011 Jeana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Susannah
Recommended to Jeana by: Susannah
Wow. I just finished this book and wanted to come write about it immediately so I don't forget how it made me feel. First off, the language is beautiful and so fitting for the context. The two girls--Snow Flower and Lily--have a friendship that is beautiful and is fun to pick out little pieces from my own childhood/current friendships that I recognize and adore.

My next thoughts are not necessarily critiques of the book, but of the way the Chinese thought: I had a real problem with hearing over...more
Erika
May 15, 2011 Erika rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: fiction
I had high hopes for this book, but ended up feeling deflated and disappointed. Two aspects of the book were interesting: descriptions of the practice of Chinese footbinding, and an exploration of 'nu shu,' the written language Chinese women developed to communicate exclusively with each other.

Unfortunately, the book also has two major problems: a boring story, and the use of cheap gimmicks instead of complex characterization.

The story deals with two girls who are matched as 'old sames,' sort...more
Michele
An Excellent Choice for Book Clubs

I had a hard time putting down this book and felt utterly transported to a village in the Hunan province in central south China during the early to mid-nineteenth century. The narrator, 80-year-old Lily, who refers to herself as one who has "yet to die," tells the story of her life. She has outlived her family members and relates the story of her formative years--and her relationship with another woman, Snow Flower. This well written tale is related with clarity...more
Cassy
My grandmother used to say that my big feet meant I had a “good foundation.” I’d stare longingly at her size-six feet when she said this and curse my genetic inheritance from elsewhere in the family tree. Then I had an ex-boyfriend make the infuriating statement that rich women have small feet. I pointed out that his celebrity crush, Paris Hilton (yeah, another reason I dumped him) has huge size-eleven feet.

My teenage-self took a lot of comfort in the fact that foot size is pre-ordained and unc...more
Petra X
I tried to read it. It was so non-compelling, who were these little mice of women, what were they up to, why should I care? MAKE ME CARE. The plot didn't, the characters didn't and so I couldn't get past about page 50. My mind kept drifting off and by the time I was conscious of reading again I wouldn't know what had happened so I had to reread it again and again up unto the fourth rereading of the same pages. (Exactly the same experience I had with Rushdie's Satanic Verses). So I gave up.

I tho...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 03, 2008 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in women in 19th century rural China or who enjoy learning about other cultures
I ended up enjoying this book because it was so beautifully written and it took me deep into a world so unlike my own; thank goodness for that! This story takes place in China’s Hunan Province in the 1800s and is more about the inner lives of the women than the men.

I had a complete misconception of what foot binding entailed. It’s completely different, and so much more brutal a practice than I ever could have imagined. There were also many examples given of what I consider other horrendous cust...more
Barbara
I actually wavered between giving this book a rating of 3 or 4 stars. This is not because Lisa See was unable to portray the life in this feudal Chinese society well, because much of this was vivid and interesting. The oppression of women, including the horrors of footbinding, isolation and servitude to men and one's in-laws were all clearly and often dismayingly illustrated.

One problem with this novel is how much better the tale could have been related if written in the third person, rather tha...more
Sara
Ever since reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I've been looking for a book that will let me relive that excitement. So I was hoping that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan would fit the bill for my craving for Asian drama :)

I would have to say that this book did not. I found it difficult to get invested in the characters who seemed somewhat flat to me. The narrator wasn't engaging enough to make me feel a connection to her. Really, the strength of the book in my opinion was the detail it spent in developi...more
Rowena
This has got to be one of the most beautiful, yet heartbreaking books that I have ever read. The subject matter is horrific but the story is truly engaging.

The main storyline in this book is about the horrible patriarchal practise, foot-binding, that took place in China in the past. The graphic descriptions in this book are certain to turn anyone’s stomach. I would like to know who decided that 7 centimetre-long feet were “sexy.” The obsession with feet truly perplexed me; how could young girls...more
Garnette
My book club was more interested in talking about their trips to China than See's book. So I am happy for Good Reads. While I found the writing journalistic: that is competent, extremely well researched, fast paced, page-turning, I cannot truly say it was well written. No phrase or passage noteworthy for its beauty or addition to literature. I was fascinated, however, by the potential for beautiful prose but lists just don't do that for me. The publisher's missed an opportunity to replicate the...more
Moses Kilolo
Brilliant. A spectacular book.

I haven’t read anything this deeply affecting for quite a while {at least on the level of love and relationships}. I was hooked from the beginning. And the grace and depth of Lisa See’s storytelling had me contemplating about life and the deeds and the choices we make concerning our own lives, those that are made on our behalf and how all these affects those who we most cherish. Fate. Is it something nature, or us, or others, or some higher power design for us? Is i...more
Erin
uuughughghghghg ugh ugh ugh.

i can't read about foot binding anymore. it literally makes me sick to my stomach. this is mostly due to a 15 minute video displayed twice every hour in a small missionary museum in new mexico.

the sole purpose of this museum, for reasons i still can't
explain, was to display unusual world practices encountered by missionaries around the globe, throughout history. my parents, wishing to enliven and culture my young and spongelike brain, (and also having nothing else t...more
Michele
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jen
Every once in a while after finishing a book I am reluctant to pick up another one. I need to spend a few days thinking and picking apart the book processing new things learned, deciding how it fits in with my world view, admiring prose, and analyzing if I really "believe" the story and accept the author's conclusions. This book had all of that.

New things: nu shu a secret written language of women a thousand years old. And foot binding, I was horribly fascinated and oddly touched. Picturing mys...more
Soledad
Have you ever wanted to know how it would have been if you would have lived in another time, like the Roaring Twenties, or ancient Egypt or Rome? Well the book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, took me to 19th century China. I felt like I had lived with Lily and experience her hardships, like her foot binding. This book made me realize how lucky I am to have been born in the 20th century, and to the culture I was born in. Everything that Lily and Snow Flower experience makes this book...more
K
Oct 28, 2008 K rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to sigh over a female friendship without thinking too critically
My review from Amazon (back in the days before I discovered goodreads!) -- I read this several years ago, but felt compelled to start a literary argument with my sister when I heard she actually liked this book. ;)

"The Secret Life of Bees" meets "Women of the Silk"

I'm getting a little tired of the "female friendship" genre that seems to pervade contemporary literature these days. While there are some better-written examples of this category, many of them seem to be written with the agenda of ext...more
Aly (Fantasy4eva)
"A woman will never become valuable if she doesn't leave her village," Mama cried out. "Goodbye, Mama," I chanted back to her. "Thank you for raising a worthless daughter." "Goodbye daughter," Baba said softly.<--- Trust me, I totally LOLed :P

Rating: 3.5

SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN started pretty strong for me. Our protagonist is now a old lady. Reminiscing, tired and full of regret. It made me instantly weary. You see, anyone who is that guilty and ashamed can only mean one thing. You roya...more
Penny
Jan 11, 2012 Penny marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Does Oprah still have a book club? Is it secretly running underground? Is the first rule Don't Talk About Book Club? I mean, how else would every woman my age know about this book? It seems as though all my GR friends over the age of thirty, many of which are lucky to finish 12 books a year, have read or plan on reading it. I just heard about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan's existence yesterday. This is odd because, regardless of what genres I prefer to read, I'm usually up to date on what's the...more
Kathryn
Apr 27, 2007 Kathryn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women
Being thousands of miles away from my closest female friends, I sometimes forget just how much I love them, and what it's like to share an intensely close friendship with another woman. "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" resurfaced those feelings for me, and reminded me of the complexity of human relationships.

At the beginning of the novel, I found myself immediately immersed in Lily's world. I didn't want to put the book down. I thought the author did a wonderful job weaving in descriptions of th...more
Thomas
When a girl, obey your father; when a wife, obey your husband; when a widow, obey your son.

At the age of seven, Lily has already found her laotong, a person with whom her friendship will last a lifetime. Though they are both born in the year of the horse, at first glance Snow Flower transcends anything and anyone Lily has ever known. The two girls write to each other in nu shu, the secret language of Chinese women, and their bond blossoms - together, they endure the painful practice of foot bind...more
Erin
Jul 08, 2008 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mindi, Corinne, Marika
A gem of a book, an incredible tale of friendship and what it means to be a woman. This is the story of Lily, who at eighty years and known as "one who has not yet died", sets out to tell about her life, and most importantly, her connection with her friend Snow Flower. At the age of seven she and Snow Flower are paired in an emotional match that will last a lifetime, called a laotong, or "old same." They learn to communicate through a secret language created by Chinese women called nu shu, shari...more
Praj
On my 13th birthday, I was furiously handed a copy of Amy Vanderbilt's New Complete Book of Etiquette: The Guide to Gracious Living as my desperate cries for Madonna’s Erotica album were sternly dismissed. Phrases of "Learn to behave like a lady" and "Beauty comes from pain", swayed alongside numerous sermons on feminine mannerisms that became a major part of my teenage life. The former was courteously bestowed advising as to how a bra was essentially an undergarment and not a lacy billboard (He...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
There's definitely something to be said for reading a book all the way through in one sitting (I read this for Dewey's 24-hour Readathon). You get more absorbed, your mind more focused, like a movie-watching experience (especially one in the cinema): a highly cohesive, tight story-telling experience with no channel-surfing. Like when you're a kid, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of your teacher as they read aloud from a picture book, pointing out the details in the illustration while...more
Jeanette
Well researched and beautifully written. This story has a very authentic feel, which unfortunately also makes it rather sad. It sickens me to think how so many women over so many centuries were taught that they were worthless and forced to endure such abuse and degradation. Women are the givers of life. Those men wouldn't be here if it weren't for the women who birthed them. Aaargh, I'd better not get started on a rant.

This is a very worthwhile book and gave me a good picture of life in rural C...more
Suzanne
Extraordinary story of two young girls who become women in the Hunan province in China during the era of "foot-binding". There are books one reads that truly enrich...this is one of them.
Lucy See creates a quilt of memorable characters who survive the horrific torture of footbinding by their mothers, in order to have feet that are sexually desirous to men resulting in an advantageous marriage. At some point in Chinese history possessing a 3 inch foot that was broken and scarred to resemble a "...more
Morgan
Apr 09, 2008 Morgan added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with strong stomachs
Recommended to Morgan by: Lisa Wuertz
Okay, I didn't finish this book. I started, and was really excited. It had all the elements of a story I'd love: foreign setting, new cultures and customs, a strong female lead. However, after the 3rd chapter it was apparent I could go no further. The title of said chapter? "Footbinding".

Now, I didn't know much about footbinding. I still don't know a lot, but what I read in those few pages was not only enough to distress me, but almost make me physically nauesous. Really, I almost threw up from...more
Colin McKay Miller
Jun 24, 2008 Colin McKay Miller rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women more than men; fans of history more than fans of plot
Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story of two girls—Lily and Snow Flower—paired together as laotong, meaning “old same,” in 19th century China. This special lifelong relationship is supposed to have an intimate depth that conquers all the changes and adversity a relationship can go through, but as the reader learns in the initial chapter, something has torn this friendship apart.

The novel is narrated by Lily, now an 80-year old widow reflecting back on her life. She tells of bei...more
Myra
May 28, 2008 Myra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tara
I just started this one last night, and I didn't want to put it down. I can't wait to finish it. :)

UPDATE:

Finished it, and I loved it. I've never read anything by Lisa See before, but I plan on reading more of her works.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is such a remarkable tale about frienship and love. It's set in nineteenth-century China, and offers quite a few historical and cultural lessons as well. Readers get to follow Lily and her laotong, Snow Flower, through childhood, their teen years,...more
Pragya
Dec 30, 2011 Pragya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anne, Kimberly, Chelsea, Jenny, Roshini, Beth, Mary, Brittany, everyone
I am finally done with 11 long hours of listening and I am still reeling from the aftertaste the book has left in my mouth. Heart wrenching yet appealing. Oh!

Right from the beginning, the book held me steadfast. The story of a 80 year old reminiscing about her life, and such an interesting one at that. I inhaled the smell of China, its history, foot-binding procedure and many other obligations one has to go through as a woman in China.

But my favorite part and character was Snow Flower - the jo...more
kendra
Aug 23, 2007 kendra rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: your mom
lisa see is a very simple writer, and i don't mean that in a belittling way. some people excel at this minimalist form where every word counts and you can mill over brilliant word choices in a 5 word sentence that speaks volumes... simple writing is often genius. especially so in themes such as this, where images invoke feelings of delicate, polished perfection, etc. oh yes, simple could be grand. in this case, not.

and the foreshadowing-- yech. it's been a long 15 years since i read a novel that...more
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Lisa See is a Chinese-American author. Her books include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Dragon Bones, and On Gold Mountain. She was named the 2001 National Woman of the Year, by the Organization of Chinese American Women. She lives in Los Angeles.

More about Lisa See...
Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1) Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2) Peony in Love On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family China Dolls

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“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” 203 likes
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