Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author: Lisa See
Pages: 269 pgs.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
First sentence: I am what they call in our village "one who has not yet died"--a widow, eighty years old.
See's historical novel takes place in a remote part of China during the 19th century - a time when all girls had there feet bound at the tender age of seven, marriages were arranged by the time they were ten, and women were confined to the upstairs room of their home for the majority of their life. We meet Lily, daughter of a farmer, and Snow Flower, who is the descendent of a wealthy, respected family. They are paired up as laotong, or "old sames" in a match meant to last a lifetime, a bond that is stronger than marriage. Communicating through nu shu, a secret women's language, Lily and Snow Flower send messages to each other on a fan, sharing their hopes and dreams.
It has taken me a long time to work out a review for this novel. One reason is my currently chaotic life as we prepare to pack up and move out-of-state. But I have also had a hard time putting into words what I feel about this book. On a purely entertainment level, it is a wonderful read. However, Lisa See's American perspective dominates the novel, and I felt she really didn't have a firm grasp of the culture and time period of 19th century Hunan China to write this story. It is not necessarily a book to read for insight into Chinese history and customs, as I fear it may be filled with inaccuracies. For that I would recommend Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang.