Jeana's Reviews > Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
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Jul 11, 11

bookshelves: my-favorite-books, favorites
Recommended to Jeana by: Susannah
Recommended for: Susannah
Read in May, 2008

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 and over how worthless a woman is if she cannot produce a son. If that were still the case, I would be as worthless as they come. It bothered me that daughters were considered better off if they died than to live. And I thought Lily perpetuated that as unfeeling as the patriarchs who instilled that thought process to begin with.

And don't get me started on footbinding. I know this is a cultural thing that I cannot begin to comprehend (such as people who still practice polygamy, I realize they see it happening in their families and think that is just the way life is, but still, how could they not think this through?) I mean, one of of ten girls died from footbinding. And not only does it make the foot look grotesque (which they thought was beautiful) but they were practically crippled for the rest of their lives. They had to be carried most distances after the age of six. It's simply ridiculous.

But reading this book made me want to learn to embroider. I know it sounds ridiculous but I was actually looking for embroidery classes in the area where I could learn how to do it. And I want to do it with my daughter. The visual of these women embroidering together. It's just beautiful.

There were so many beautiful quotes that I thought I'd list my favorites:

This thought is a real comfort to me: "Everyone knows that part of the spirit descends to the afterworld, while part of it remains with the family, but we have a special belief about the spirit of a young woman who has died before her marriage that goes contrary to this. She comes back to prey upon other unmarried girls--not to scare them but to take them to the afterworld with her so she might have company."

This is particarly interesting to me because after my daughter died, Biance would tell me about going to heaven with Miranda every night while she dreamed.

Another quote I liked about teachers:
"The classics tell us that, in relationships, the one between teacher and student comes second only to the one between parent and child."

The last one is a bit lengthy, but I like it nonetheless:
"If it is perfectly acceptable for a widow to disfigure herself or commit suicide to save face for her husband's family, why should a mother not be moved to extreme action by the loss of a child or children? We are their caretakers. We love them. We nurse them when they are sick. . . But no woman should live longer than her children. It is against the law of nature. If she does, why wouldn't she wish to leap from a cliff, hang from a branch, or swallow lye?"

Overall, this was a sad, beautiful book.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Crystal (last edited May 08, 2008 08:36AM) (new) - added it

Crystal I have never gotten teary eyed reading someone's review of a book till now. I'm glad you liked it and think it's good. I knew there was a reason I brought it as a book club choice twice. Great review.


Anita Enjoyed your review. I loved this book too, and like you was amazed and appalled at the way women were (are) viewed by this culture. This did, however, create some very strong bonds and friendships between the women in ways we don't have here in the U.S.



Susan Great review. After finishing this book, I just wanted to mull it over and then talk about it. I love the way you added quotes.


Cami I can teach you to embroider.


Alison Nice review and I felt the same way about the cultural views on women. Wasn't it sad that the women themselves propogated it? How about the fact that it was the mothers that did the foot binding?

If you're ever looking for a good book on embroidery, I can recommend "A-Z of Embroidery Stitches" ISBN 0646 320025. I taught myself to embroider with it.


Shona I'm trying to read it so my mom and I can go see the film next weekend, she's reading it as well. I am at the part where Lily is being sized up and told by the matchmaker that they should postpone her foot binding. I liked your review and am glad the book inspired you to create.


Dolly I think one of the reasons this book was so hard for me to read was that the message that women are worthless was so frequently mentioned throughout the story and while it was more words than truth, it still became a bitter pill for me.


Jewels ♥ My Devastating Reads The foot binding is horrible. But after reading this book, I started wondering whether women are any better off today. Just look at the high heels sold in stores today--4 to 5 inches high, and the toe area is so square and squished that I wonder how women who wear them can bear it. And why do they? Because these shoes make them look beautiful. Is our culture, with all the emphasis on external physical beauty that often drives women to extremes to fit the ideal of beauty, any better? How many times have we women heard "beauty is pain?"


TamElaine I also welled up with tears reading your review. I am 67% of the way through this book and my e-book needs to be charged :( So I turned to the reviews to hear others thoughts and in your review found my own thoughts this far staring back at me. It's quite a book - one that will most likely stick with me for many years after I read the final page.


TamElaine ......and since I was so drawn to your review, I felt the urge to peek at your books....May I recommend to you "A Walk Across the Sun" by Corban Addison - It was my favourite book that I read last year and I think you might enjoy it....


Jeana Thank you, TamElaine. I have it on my to-read list, but I'll have to give it priority.


message 12: by Milena (new)

Milena Banks As all of you above enjoy the Asian historical drama genre, maybe you would like Riding the Tiger, set in Hong Kong in the 1930's. It's a Chinese/British version of Downton Abbey. Lets know what you think! Thank you, Milena Banks


message 13: by Dalia (new) - added it

Dalia Jeana, reading your review was exactly what I was feeling whilst reading the book. I'm 2/3 of the way through it and after struggling to get through the excruciating foot binding chapter where I actually felt nauseous to the point of fainting on the train and requiring an ambulance, I pushed on after putting it aside for 3 weeks as it's a book club book for me & wanted to finish it. Now I can't put it down and am just spellbound by it. The shocking acts and way of life for the women of those times is just out of this world, and to us, close to impossible to comprehend.

Shona - you mention it's a film as well. Is the movie the same title as the book? I'd be interested to see it as well.


Kavita I think the mothers were themselves helpless to help their daughters in any other way. They had no money to give them to ensure their future, no education to impart, nothing. Their only hope was a marriage to a rich family and everyone knew it. They could not even stay with the parents forever because the husband would object, OR once the parents die, the brothers would throw her out. Breaking her feet was better than poverty and begging on the streets because poor, unprotected women faced a lot of dangers. I could judge a mother who had choices, but these women had none.


Faith It is sad that Chinese culture used to think of women that way. But it is true that Mother in laws frowned upon daughter in laws that gave birth to girls. My great grandmother went through foot binding and she often reprimanded my grandmother because she had 5 daughters and 1 son. I can only say that I am so blessed to be born years after such prejudice was upon women. Even till today, it is still true that some mothers/grandmothers prefer their sons and grandsons over daughters.


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