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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.
©2005 Lisa See (P)2005 Books on Tape Inc.
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Critic Reviews

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

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By GSDNH on 10-09-08

Narrator Becomes the Main Character

The narrator (Janet Song) managed to pull me in immediately and I anxiously looked forward to car trips to keep up with the story. I even listened to it while doing housework. It is now one of my favorite audios.

This book tells the story of the realm of women during early 1800's China. Women spent their entire lives inside concerned only with household duties. It is told through the point of view of Lily, now an old woman of 80 years. She begins with her poor childhood and the days just before her foot-binding at age 7. Because she is so beautiful and has remarkable feet a lao-tang match is made for her with a girl of a more educated and refined background, Snow Flower. The two become life-long friends and enter into a relationship with a stronger bond even then marriage during that time period.

They communicate using Nu-shu, or women's writing, a more simplified version of the Chinese characters. Because it is forbidden they hide their words in a large fan and send it back and forth over the years.

Both girls take very different paths when it is time for them to marry, but they continue their friendship through letters and their secret fan. Through family deaths, famine and war we see the hard lives thrust upon women and are completely engrossed in their stories. The images of the rigors of foot-binding will stay with me forever.

I highly recommend this book. We will be discussing at my next book group and I’m dying to see what the ladies have to say.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Laurie on 02-22-06


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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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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