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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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Monthly Reads > Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - book and movie

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message 1: by Zeljka (new)

Zeljka (ztook) | 2875 comments Mod
We haven't read a historical novel set in different times and culture for quite a while. Just take a look at its short description:

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.


The movie was made mere five years after the first publication of the novel. It earned a Film of Merit award by Shanghai Film Critics. I hope you'll like this choice of the month.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments Mod
I don't think I realized it was a movie! I read the book a year or so ago and I remember liking it more or less. I'll have to go find my review....

I remember thinking it was a little too "chick lit" for my overall preference though?


message 3: by Zeljka (new)

Zeljka (ztook) | 2875 comments Mod
Alana wrote: "I don't think I realized it was a movie!..."

I didn't know it was the book first :)


Alana (alanasbooks) | 730 comments Mod
Here's my review from when I read it in 2016:

For the historical and cultural interest of the book, I would give it four stars, but for the overall story, only about 3, maybe 3.5, for sheer "chic-lit-i-ness."

It's a period of history and a culture I know very little about. I knew about foot-binding, of course, but only in a historical, academic sense from the history books. It was very interesting to view it from the "inside" (though fictional) perspective, of WHY it was valued and done, at least culturally at that time. I still have no idea how the practice came into being in the first place. It helps me to better wrap my head around other cultures, in things like female circumcision or other mutilation issues in various cultures, past and present, of which I can have very little understanding as a 21st century Western woman. I certainly do not view the practice as any less barbaric (indeed, the descriptions of toes breaking and the dangers even unto death were stomach-turning) but it helps to better understand why the women would continue to perpetuate the idea and teach it as honorable to their daughters, on down the line.

The levels of devaluation of women in a society is also completely foreign to me, and I had to keep an open mind as men AND women in the story discuss the virtually valueless role of females in the culture. Only in their age and married status did women gain any tiny semblance of power or prestige. And yet, they seemed content with this lot, or at least resigned to it.

The importance of friendship and of reading between the lines and really hearing the soul of someone else is at the center of the story. It takes "best friend" to a whole new level, especially in a culture where women truly had nothing else besides their families and their female friends to rely upon. To betray the trust of women, when life was already so hard for them, was looked upon with disgust.

Definitely a lot of historical and cultural differences (and similarities) to ponder and consider. A compelling look into another culture (especially the women's style of writing) but I was glad it wasn't a long book, as the "girli-ness" of the misunderstanding became a bit obnoxious after awhile.


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