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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005)

by Lisa See

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» See also 482 mentions

English (331)  Spanish (2)  Danish (2)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (339)
Showing 1-5 of 331 (next | show all)
Wow. A bit disturbing, but a great insight into the culture. ( )
  Mirandalg14 | Aug 18, 2014 |
Well, she’s no Amy Tan.

In turn-of-the-20th-Century rural China, two young girls become bonded for life by the laotong contract. Whatever friends, spouses, blood sisters, or mothers-in-law may pass through their lives they are sworn to remain soulmates, communicating via messages in secret “women’s writing” carried between the two towns.

The blurb tries to make it sound like there’s more to the novel than this, but this is really it. The paltry frame upon which numerous history and sociology lessons are hung.

The thing that bums me out about this novel is that it could have been so good. The basic premise is one that has worked countless times: two very different people with an emotional bond desperately trying to hang onto each other in a world designed to keep them apart. If the factual information on footbinding and class systems had been artfully woven into a genuine story with fully-realized characters who could have had the reflections and realizations that were important for the author to convey. Instead, there are overlong passages that clinically describe facets of Chinese culture/practices. Certain scenes seem to occur only because the author had a real-world anecdote she wanted to include. There are thinly-veiled political statements that seem inauthentic to the characters and their circumstances. Lisa See had some drums to bang, and she beat them to bits.

The foreshadowing is obvious, the main character reads like a different woman from scene to scene (here sassy, here blindly obedient, here flinty), and the “lessons” are run into the ground.

As a female Chinese-American writer, I imagine Lisa See gets compared to Amy Tan a lot. She’s probably sick of it. Still, if I wrote a novel about boy wizards I’d just have to suck it up when J.K. Rowling came up, wouldn’t I? Tan is poetic where See is pedantic. Even the title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. That’s a dumb title. A title for a children’s book. The words are pretty and it might even sound mysterious at first, but upon reading the book one finds it is just a laundry list of the things inside. Her other titles are similarly unimaginative: Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls. Compare that to Tan’s titles that obliquely reference the contemporary subject matter through the lens of Chinese myth or legend: The Kitchen God’s Wife, Saving Fish from Drowning, The Hundred Secret Senses. I would recommend any of Tan’s books that I’ve read before this novel. I got Ready Player One-levels sick of the term “golden lilies” and reading about how people swayed about on them. Expand your capacity for imagery or GTFO.

What bothers me most of all is that nowhere on the long road to publication did anyone tell See that this novel wasn’t good. It could have been salvaged. ( )
  ArmchairAuthor | Jul 3, 2014 |
I had put off reading any of Lisa See's books for a long time. I love reading about the Chinese culture but did not like any of Amy Tan's books. But I finally gave in and started reading Snow Flower. I was immediately grabbed by the beautiful writing. I learned quite a bit from this book -- foot binding, nu shu, laotongs, sworn sisters, etc. I loved it and now can't wait to read "Shanghai Girls" and "China Doll". ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Jun 16, 2014 |
Borrowed from my mom. Well done historical fiction about women living in China about 100 years ago. Well developed characters and an interesting plot. Been a while since I had both in the same book! :) ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
I would give this six stars. My all time favorite book.

An exploration of female friendship in all its ups and downs, jealousies, loyalties, and betrayals; and a comment on the spiritual meaning of tradition, ritual, and ceremony. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lisa Seeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ridder, SusanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Song, JanetNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am what they call in our village "one who has not yet died" -- a widow, eighty years old.
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No matter how scared I was of her words, I wanted to cling to those wings and fly away
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Book description
Friends Snow Flower and Lily find solace in their bond as they face isolation, arranged marriages, loss, and motherhood in nineteenth-century China.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812968069, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:54 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In nineteenth century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, or "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The two women exchange messages written on silk fans and handkerchieves using nu shu, a unique language that women created in order to communicate in secret, sharing their experiences, but when a misunderstanding arises, their friendship threatens to tear apart.… (more)

» see all 13 descriptions

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Lisa See is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Average: (4.03)
0.5
1 23
1.5 4
2 94
2.5 26
3 476
3.5 157
4 1093
4.5 157
5 872

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