Elisa's Reviews > Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
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May 01, 09

bookshelves: fun-novels, historical-serious-reading

I really enjoyed this book a lot. I was intrigued to learn more about female relationships with one another since most historical fiction focuses on female-male relationships. I loved the way this book truly read as a novel, twining in folklore, songs, poetry, and regional anecdotes as if they were everyday language. I loved the protagonist the most in the beginning as a young girl. I guess I had a hard time not thinking she overreacted to imagined hurts. But I think that is the point of the novel. She holds a grudge like none other and lashes out in retaliation... and only in the very end does she seek out redemption. Very moving story of human weakness, misunderstanding, and the bonds of friendship.

There are 2 pages that were a lil ackward to read as one who is raised in Western culture. The 2 girls have a physical side to their friendship that we can't really relate to. One extremely hot night they shed their clothes and write on each other's bodies with wet fingers to invite the breeze to cool them off. Don't worry, there is no kissing or anything really uncomfortable like that, but there is a comfortableness with touch that would never be a part of our homophobic friendships here. I thought back to my mission in Korea and how holding hands, sitting on one another's laps, or even scrubbing each other down at the public bathhouse was viewed as an indicator of true deep friendship NOT as a sexual feeling. I think this is the same thing. If it makes you uncomfortable, though, you don't have to read it. Just skip to the end of the chapter. It is only there once.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the way See does not didactically pass judgement on Chinese culture or customs. Even things like foot-binding. Other books that I've read (and I've read many) almost universally condemn the act from the beginning. She doesn't. The experience is simply presented to us from the eyes of a 7 year old going through it. Though that doesn't make the pain or descriptions any less horrible for us to read, I think it is far more provocative on a personal scale. Would I have bound my own daughter's feet if I knew it was the only way for her to have a successful life?
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