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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Lisa See
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,328 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Peony in Love.

Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, 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 lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women—here between Lily and Snow Flower—that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Lily at 80 reflects on her life, beginning with her daughter days in 19th-century rural China. Foot-binding was practiced by all but the poorest families, and the graphic descriptions of it are not for the fainthearted. Yet women had nu shu, their own secret language. At the instigation of a matchmaker, Lily and Snow Flower, a girl from a larger town and supposedly from a well-connected, wealthy family, become laotong, bound together for life. Even after Lily learns that Snow Flower is not from a better family, even when Lily marries above her and Snow Flower beneath her, they remain close, exchanging nu shu written on a fan. When war comes, Lily is separated from her husband and children. She survives the winter helped by Snow Flower's husband, a lowly butcher, until she is reunited with her family. As the years pass, the women's relationship changes; Lily grows more powerful in her community, bitter, and harder, until at last she breaks her bond with Snow Flower. They are not reunited until Lily tries to make the dying Snow Flower's last days comfortable. Their friendship, and this tale, illustrates the most profound of human emotions: love and hate, self-absorption and devotion, pride and humility, to name just a few. Even though the women's culture and upbringing may be vastly different from readers' own, the life lessons are much the same, and they will be remembered long after the details of this fascinating story are forgotten.–Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3487 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0747583005
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (June 28, 2005)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FCK71U
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,632 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
316 of 335 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing Story of Women's Friendships August 14, 2005
Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is an engrossing and fascinating story of women's friendships in nineteenth century rural China. This is an excellent, well-written novel--fascinating on so many levels. Lily, the narrator of the novel is in her eighties, looking back on her life. She shares the stories of her foot binding, nu shu, the secret women's writing, and the various formally women's friendships that society enforced. Lily's sister participated in a sworn sisterhood, where a group of young women formed a friendship that was to last until marriage, but Lily is paired with one girl, Snow Flower, her laotong or "old same." Lily and Snow Flower have a love that is stronger than all of her other relationships--and it causes them both more heartbreak. The novel is really the story of their friendship, its depths, its deceits, its strengths--and it is a fascinating read about a society so different from our own. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan reminds me in many ways of The Red Tent in that it explores female friendship in a setting much different than any contemporary one. A fascinating read.
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347 of 377 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathy with Both Women and Men July 9, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel is surely intended for any reader who likes a compelling, historically-set, moving, suspenseful story. I have been a fan of Lisa See's mysteries, and her sympathies with, and skill in creating characters of both sexes, are apparent in both the mystery plots and the present book.

This plot is beautifully woven, with two women at its center, but there is compassion for both the women and the men in the nineteenth-century Chinese society the author re-creates so vividly. Lisa See obviously LIKES her characters, and she develops some understanding of and compassion for ALL of them. Her natural sensitivity, vast research--including visits and interviews in the remote region she is writing about--make her work fully convincing.

Tender, celebratory, joyous, painful, heart-breaking at times-- this is a memorable, glorious book. After reading it, I found myself thinking more and more about some of the power, motivations, love, violence, and ways of communication in our twenty-first century societies.

I will pass my copy along to a friend or two, but I will say "Be sure to return it."
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
This 2005 novel is about the friendship between two Chinese women in mid-19th century rural China. What was so wonderful about it was that I actually felt I was part of their world and totally accepted their view of life as my own.

Snow Flower and Lily are friends, but their friendship was not random. When they were only seven years old, a marriage broker arranged a contract in which they agreed to be friends for life. They did not live in the same town and Snow Flower came from a more prosperous family than Lily, but Snow Flower visited Lily often, and learned to do household chores as well as the complicated embroidery that all young Chinese girls did in preparation for their future marriages. Yes, both of these girls, as well as the other girls in their households had bound feet. The pain must have been awful. Yet, it was an accepted part of being a woman in those times, and mothers who wanted their daughters to marry well had to force their young girls to go through the agony.

A woman's world was completely different from the world of men. Their lives were that of isolation. In order to communicate, they actually had a secret written language. This language has been documented and really did exist. It is the only known language in the world to have been developed exclusively by women for women. The two girls would write to each other in this language on a fan which they sent back and forth to each other. Both of them hoped for a bright future.

As the girls grow up we share their experiences of marriage. They didn't meet their husbands until the wedding day. And their function in their new households was only to bear sons. Mothers-in-law were usually hard taskmasters and were always critical of them.
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78 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! December 23, 2006
The lifelong story of Lily and Snow Flower broke my heart on so many levels. I cried for them as little girls enduring the traditions they were born to. I cried some more as their fates unfolded and it became evident it would not be a happy ever after tale. "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" was an unexpected surprise for me, a great story with twists and turns you might not anticipate. It is fast moving , almost from the first page and by mid book, I wasn't able to put it down. I just had to know what happened and couldn't wait for the ending. Teen girls should read "Snow Flower" to better understand how far women have come since the days of foot binding and arranged marriages. This was an excellent story and I highly recommend it.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars would have been more interesting as nonfiction July 10, 2008
The back copy will have you believe that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is an enriching tale of female empowerment, when in fact is is just the opposite. It's the story of female knuckling-under and backbiting, the greed of women who have so little power that they will clutch at everything they can get, even to the point of destroying someone they loved.

The narrator, Lily, is a remarkably undeveloped character; she's really nothing more than a mask that the author/reader puts on for a time to get a look into nineteenth-century China.

Lily's defining characteristic, stated early in the book, is that she "wants to be loved." The author goes to great lengths to demonstrate how Lily tries to find love and then destroys what she loved when she perceives herself rejected. This is supposed to be the theme and plot of the book. However, despite See's constant reiterations of how the bond between the two girls is supposed to be stronger than marriage, I found the narration too flat and unemotional to allow me to care.

The early parts, the accounts of the girls' childhood and everyday lives, are interesting for their cultural insight. The prose tends to be a bit maudlin, however, with frequent references to bad times ahead that felt very manipulative. When the bad times come, they are sudden, random and not really related to the inner conflicts of the characters. Yes, in real life tragedy can strike without warning, but the narrative flatness became almost ridiculous during these scenes--Lily reports on the emotions of everybody else with the detachment of a TV camera. Furthermore, nobody learns or changes anything as a result of the bad times. Everybody pretty much goes on as before.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Richly Detailed Historical Read
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan details the intense friendship narrator Lily shares with her laotong, or "old same" Snow Flower. Read more
Published 1 day ago by ace1339
5.0 out of 5 stars The author showed us about how hierarchal status impacts a ...
The author showed us about how hierarchal status impacts a girls future. You also learn about a tradition that is now outlawed all over the world
Published 2 days ago by D. Solomon
4.0 out of 5 stars Chinese customs
Enjoyed it very much! Remember many of the traditions and superstitions for the stories I heard as a child from my ancestors.
Published 4 days ago by Mommyflip
5.0 out of 5 stars China customs
Interesting read. Author writes so eloquently, gave me a greater understanding of Chinese customs and how they are parallel with our lives today.
Published 5 days ago by Trish G
5.0 out of 5 stars love her work
It has been a few years since I read this one but I misplaced my copy and was so distressed by that, that I had to buy a replacement copy so that I would have it, the next time I... Read more
Published 6 days ago by shannon lucas
4.0 out of 5 stars This book fascinated me in regards to the foot-binding and ...
This book fascinated me in regards to the foot-binding and Chinese culture surrounding the custom. In fact, once I finished reading the book, I did quite a bit of research on... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Amy M
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating story
Published 16 days ago by Maeve McCarthy
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Beautiful story of the bonds between women theough hardships.
Published 21 days ago by Sarah Bedsole
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Best friend story.
Published 24 days ago by nancy johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars I have read other books by this author and would recommend any of her...
Very interesting book about family customs and relationships in China. The story was well written. I have read other books by this author and would recommend any of her books.
Published 25 days ago by Babsie in NC
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Welcome to the Snow Flower & the Secret Fan forum
Good, I am not the only one who went on a search for pictures of footbinding on the internet. I have lent this book out to four of my friends. They all loved it. Unfortunately i still have not gotten it back. My favorite part ( not to spoil it for those who have not read it yet) is when I... Read More
Dec 29, 2005 by C. Ordonez |  See all 12 posts
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