Book Review: Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

November 9, 2007 No Comments »


Snowflower and the Secret Fan is a fictional book set in 19th Century China – fittiing for all of my China travel in Oct. and Nov. I actually read this book for my sister’s book club. I must start with I normally don’t read fiction – for some reason it lacks the ‘thrill ‘ factor for me. However, this book was a direct connection to the old traditions of China – and since I would be traveling through China I thought it would it would be a good choice.

The book is a fast read – set in 19th century China where being a woman was as low on the totum pole as you could get. Your worth depended on how small your foot could be bound – Lily, the main character had bound feet that were 7 centimeters…and this was considered erotic and beautiful. However the book was mainly about Lily’s relationship with her best friend and la-tong, Snowflower. These two young women had an intense friendship full of pain yet endures through lies and deceit. (The makings of a good Chinese Soap Opera if you ask me). You learned how women tried to carry on communicating with their friends in a culture where they had no rights or freedoms. The story was ultimately about their relationship, betrayal, and how it evolved

I have to admit that I had trouble with the story mainly because the women characters in the book were soooo weak – probably more a product of their time than anything that was under their control. I was fustrated by the main character in always doing what she should instead of doing what she wanted to do. Yet – this was a sad fact of the culture in which she grew up. These women’s only purpose in life was to have babies…male babies…that’s it. How could this not invoke my inner feminist?! Yet – life was very different back then. I realized that if I had lived back then, I would have ended up a servant with big, ugly feet for the rest of my life…which in actuallity might not have been that bad. I came to the conclusion that I would have rather been a servant than in the main character’s positions.

My favorite part of the book was learning about the foot binding which led me to do some more research on it on Google. A fascinating subject that will leave you in disbelief.

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