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Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

August 28, 2011

As young girls, Lily and Snow Flower are matched up as laotong or “old sames,” in 19th century China.  Their bond is supposed to last them a lifetime – old sames are supposed to have a deeper love for each other than they have for their husbands.

Lily and Snow Flower endure foot binding together, marry and have children, and still remain loyal to each other even though, in marriage, their lives are worlds apart.   When Lily misinterprets a note from Snow Flower, it seems that their long friendship might not survive.

I’m sure everyone I know was glad when I finished reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See, because I couldn’t stop talking about it.   I was captivated right from the start and felt like I was immersed in the world of 19th century China as I read this book.  Even though the passages about foot binding made me feel sick to my stomach, they caused me to do a little research and learn something new.

I loved Lily right from the start.  She longed to be obedient and worked hard at everything she did.  She wanted to have a good life and hoped for love.  I learned a lot about the family dynamics in 19th century China from her story and I have to admit that I’m glad I didn’t live there.  I loved Snow Flower, too – she had a lot of the same dreams, but she was more spirited and not quite as fortunate.

The story of the women’s friendship is wonderful too.  Knowing they had someone who had known them for so long, and loved them fiercely, helped both women endure so much.  I think our modern day friendships aren’t usually so deep, or so loyal, but they do serve the same purpose.

This was my first experience with Lisa See’s writing, but it certainly won’t be my last.  She captivated me with her words and her storytelling ability.  I recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to those who enjoy historical fiction or women’s fiction.

I won a copy of this book from Reading Extravaganza.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
48 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2011 7:24 am

    It was one of my favorites the year I read it. Glad to see you enjoyed it. I agree that the foot binding was difficult to read about but I learned something new!

  2. drbethnolan permalink
    August 28, 2011 7:59 am

    Loved this book…I think I loved her “Peony in Love” even more. And of course I love her Shanghai Girls and its sequel. Lisa See is the best! 🙂 -beth

  3. August 28, 2011 8:20 am

    I think maybe I told you that Lisa See is going to be our guest author at ALL next year, so I need to get my act together and read her stuff! That foot binding makes me ill.

  4. August 28, 2011 8:44 am

    Wow, I think I’m one of the only people who hasn’t read this. And, yikes on the foot binding!

  5. August 28, 2011 8:52 am

    I read this last year when I was traveling on my author tour and really enjoyed it.

  6. August 28, 2011 8:58 am

    I loved it as well! The foot binding was hard for me to get through. Ouch!! So glad you finally read and loved it!!

  7. veens permalink
    August 28, 2011 9:02 am

    I am glad you liked it so much! I loved this one a lot.

  8. August 28, 2011 9:22 am

    I’ve read about 4 books by Lisa See and this one remains my favorite. I still cringe when I think about the foot binding. Glad u loved this Kathy.

    We are still okay here with Irene as of 9:20 am.

  9. August 28, 2011 9:32 am

    I’ve just picked up Peony in Love. so glad you enjoyed this book so much. Thanks for the review.

  10. August 28, 2011 9:33 am

    I read Shanghai Girls last year and loved it. I have the sequel on my TBR pile.
    I have not read this one, but I intend to. She has an amazing way with storytelling.

  11. August 28, 2011 10:11 am

    Yes what a wonderful review. I have this book sitting on my shelf and now will have to read it. I was stunned how foot binding could have been seen as beautiful since it handicaps the poor woman for life – but yet again beauty is a cultural reality different at every corner of the world. Fantastic review and will bump up this read now.

  12. August 28, 2011 10:40 am

    Lisa See really is a wonderful author, isn’t she? I liked this book, but LOVED Shanghai Girls and its sequel, Dreams of Joy

  13. August 28, 2011 10:50 am

    Okay, that video is the grossest ever! which is also why I can’t read that book!

  14. August 28, 2011 10:59 am

    I’m one of the few that still hasn’t read this book but I will! I loved Shanghai Girls; Lisa See is a wonderful writer.

  15. kaye permalink
    August 28, 2011 11:30 am

    the foot binding descriptions were truly cringe worthy for me. I couldn’t even watch the video. Yeow! How could any mother do that to her daughter? I liked her last two books much, much, better.

  16. August 28, 2011 12:15 pm

    Just seeing the woman’s foot in the video made me sick to my stomach. The books sounds fascinating but not sure I could read about the foot binding. Thanks for including the video (yes, even though it made me feel ill).

  17. August 28, 2011 12:20 pm

    I loved this book as well, although it was very difficult to read about foot-binding.

  18. August 28, 2011 12:24 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful book. I’m intrigued by anything that makes a reader want to do more research. Thanks for the review.

  19. August 28, 2011 12:53 pm

    I love Lisa See and am looking forward to reading Shanghai Sisters and Dreams of Joy very soon. I think this one sounds very good, but that foot binding is atrocious. I can’t imagine having that done to me, as my feet are very sensitive! Great review on this one, Kathy! I am glad that you really enjoyed it! I find that I also tend to talk a lot about books that I am enjoying.

  20. August 28, 2011 3:17 pm

    It is an excellent book….the foot binding is too much, huh?

    The movie doesn’t do the book justice so I don’t recommend seeing it.

    Hope everyone is ok if you were affected by Irene.


  21. August 28, 2011 3:22 pm

    I read this quite awhile ago and our book club had an excellent discussion along with it! Just fascinating to learn about another culture. Now you must read Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. They are just as excellent! Is the movie, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in your area? I wish it was in our area. I’m afraid I am going to have to wait until DVD to see it.

  22. August 28, 2011 4:15 pm

    This is one of by favorites my her looking forward to watching the movie now.

  23. August 28, 2011 4:53 pm

    I have been pushing this one onto my book club – I have to read it yet but keep hearing it is amazing!

  24. August 28, 2011 5:24 pm

    I own this one but am just waiting until I’m in the right mood to read it. I’m sure I will like it though since I’ve liked her other books.

  25. August 28, 2011 5:40 pm

    I have not read this yet, but hope to get to it soon. Glad you enjoyed it.

  26. August 28, 2011 5:58 pm

    This was my first Lisa See experience and I immediately fell in love with her writing!

  27. August 28, 2011 7:56 pm

    I’m so glad to read that you loved this book. Lisa See became one of my favorites after this, and I recall crying my eyes out throughout the book, especially at the end. While Peony In Love was wonderful, I loved Snow Flower the best. I saw her at an author event at my local independent bookstore The Book Mark in Neptune Beach a few years ago, and it was a wonderful experience. She was every bit as captivating a speaker as her books are to read!

  28. August 28, 2011 8:42 pm

    I loved this book and I’m so glad that you read it! Those foot binding chapters were hard to read.

  29. August 28, 2011 10:53 pm

    I looooved this book when I read it. The end broke my heart! I also recommend Shanghai Girls… loved that one too.

  30. August 28, 2011 11:25 pm

    I was the same when I read this! It was so fascinating that I had to talk to everyone about it. Such a great read.

  31. August 29, 2011 12:02 am

    Everyone says this book is awesome!

  32. August 29, 2011 2:04 am

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. I was surprised to see that you are just now reading it for the first time. Here’s my review:



  33. August 29, 2011 8:13 am

    For some reason, I was under the impression that I’d read a See title and didn’t care for it, but, looking at her books on Goodreads, I was wrong! Since everyone seems to love her work (even an older release like this one), I”m going to have to give her a try! Thanks for the review!

  34. August 29, 2011 8:45 am

    This one has been on my stacks for a longgg time and I need to hurry up and read it. I have a strong suspicion I’ll love it. 🙂

  35. August 29, 2011 9:40 am

    I really want to read a book by her one day.
    And the binding of feet, what were they thinking?

  36. August 29, 2011 10:26 am

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this book Kathy because I love, love, loved it! It is one of my all-time favorite books ever and now I can’t wait to see the movie!

  37. August 29, 2011 10:55 am

    Glad to see you loved this book. I pulled it off my shelf to read this year but haven’t had a chance to yet. Shanghai Girls was my introduction to See’s writing and I loved it!

  38. August 29, 2011 11:47 am

    It would be difficult to get through the foot binding part of this book, but I think I want to read it anyway. Foot binding is only one of a long list of cruelties perpetuated upon women in the name of beauty or other “womanly” qualities.

  39. August 29, 2011 2:13 pm

    Another book I have sitting on my shelves! Thanks for the reminder and glad you enjoyed it so much. btw, I also talk incessantly about books I enjoy 🙂 We can’t help it!

  40. August 29, 2011 2:20 pm

    I loved your review, Kathy! I’m so happy you enjoyed this book so much. I loved Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. I have been wondering which of her books to read next. I think I’ve found it! Lisa See is great at writing in such a way that you feel like you’re in China (or wherever!) with her characters who are always intriguing, interesting people. I’m really looking forward to this book, now. Thanks, Kathy!

  41. August 29, 2011 3:39 pm

    I loved this book! It remains one of my favorite reads. I should do a reread sometime soon.

  42. August 29, 2011 9:01 pm

    Wasn’t this so good????? I was as captivated as you were. Even with the horrors of footbinding.

  43. August 30, 2011 7:06 am

    Oh my! Your first Lisa See? You have some great reading ahead!

  44. August 30, 2011 6:46 pm

    i’ve had this one on myTBR pile forever – I know it will be great when I finally get to it!

  45. August 31, 2011 1:26 pm

    This is one of my favorite books, I read it with my book club a few years ago and was fascinated by the foot binding as well. It’s difficult to read about and unbelievable that it is found desirable by men! It looks so painful,it’s unimaginable to have to go through that process. Thanks for sharing the video…I’ve only seen pictures but this was amazing. Hard to look at but it gives you a sense of what these amazing women have to endure.

  46. September 2, 2011 10:18 pm

    I love Lisa See. Every time she has a new book out I HAVE to read it!

  47. September 3, 2011 9:03 am

    I think many of us did research on foot binding after reading this book. It’s such a bizarre piece of history. This really was such a good book.

  48. September 9, 2011 9:23 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! It’s a fantastic book and like you it caused me to do a bit of my own research on foot binding.

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