Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

  • by Lisa See
  • Narrated by Janet Song
  • 11 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 19th-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.


What the Critics Say

"Engrossing....Both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


I have heard good reviews about this book for years, and it has been a popular choice as a Book Club read, so I looked forward to listening for some time. What a disappointment! Although I found the story somewhat interesting and informative at times, the narrator's voice was so grating that it was a real struggle to complete. I would suggest a paper copy of the book, if you want to bother at all. The theme of the book is about female friendship, but I found it difficult to relate to the selfishness of the main character. The reasons for Lily's abandonment of her life-long friend for many years was hard to fathom, and its resolution didn't ring true for me. For a much better, less sappy story, I'd vote for Memoirs of a Geisha anytime!
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- Bdan in ATL


Reminscent of "Memoirs of a Geisha," this book takes place in 19th century China where women's roles were limited to bearing children (preferably sons) and doing chores around the house. They live in their inlaws' house and rarely, if ever, see their parents once they move in. Not only is Lily's marriage arranged, but so is her deep friendship with Snowflower. They quickly grow to love each other. I'll stop now to avoid giving away the plot. The novel is narrated by Lily at 80 years old, twice the years of the average lifespan of a woman. This is a truly wonderful novel with an excellent narrator. I missed the characters acutely once it was over.
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- Laurie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-27-2005
  • Publisher: Books on Tape