Monday, August 31

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Author: Lisa See

Pages: 253

Summary: In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bounded and lived in almost total seclusion, the woman in one remote Human country developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs “old sames”, in the emotional matches that lasted through-out 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, the 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 life long friend ship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

My Rating: 9.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was pretty much impossible to put down, I only managed to set it down, when I was too exhausted to read anymore. But what a fantastic read! Lisa See did a wonderful job at creating a beautiful friendship between the two characters of the book, filling it with emotional passages and a strong bond between these two girls, who grow together into women. The story is written in an autobiographic sort of way, so we only get to view things through Lily’s eyes, but the author did such a fantastic job in writing in the head of this woman, you almost want to believe she lived years and years ago, and these are her thoughts she left behind. The friendship, and how it was portrayed and written, is probably my favourite aspect of the book, and I was so involved with the characters, it drove me mad to see them hurt, to see them fight, to see them sick etc.

Another aspect of the story I enjoyed was the aspect of Ancient Chinese traditions, the ways woman were treated, the hardships they faced, and how they were perceived in society. Again, the author does a wonderful job at showing this to the readers, the foot-binding process it very, cringe worthy, and grotesque, but handle beautifully, in that it showed a very real out look at what woman had to go through during these times. Lisa See easily is able to paint a very realistic picture in her readers heads, in every scene of what is happening, what our characters is feeling emotionally and what they’re thinking, with words.

One issue I had, was sometimes it moves a little slower then I would have liked it, it moves slow, because it needs to build the relationship up to what it is and how it ends, but at times, I felt like I just wanted to move on with the issue already. Overall, a beautiful read, and another author who I look forward to reading more works by her, this book has quickly become one of my favourite of the year, and the characters in it and their friendship, one that will stick with me (and likely other readers) for a while

Would I recommend it to read: Yes! The book for me was almost impossible to put down, beautiful writing and an amazing story. I was reluctant to read it at first, because it was advertised so much, and everyone talked about it non-stop (in the past I’ve found when this happens, the book doesn’t live up to it’s standards), but this most differently lived up to what I’ve heard about it and more. Give it a try, and you, like me, should find this book hard to set down.

What to read next: Memoirs of a Geisha, I also looked on LibraryThing and it recommend, The Secret Life of Bees

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 999 Challenge, August Reading Challenge


  1. I have a hard time with books about Asian culture. Not that I have anything against it, but for some reason I've just never gotten very interested in it. I do like some books - Memoirs of a Geisha and The Good Earth both earned 5 stars from me in the last year - but most I just waffle about. Do I want to read this? Do I not? That sort of thing. I've seen good reviews about this one, but I'm not convinced yet. I do like that it's historical - for some weird reason I don't like most historical fiction but in Asian literature I like it better...

  2. I haven't read all of your review because I just picked this up to read this week for my book club! I'm glad to see that you loved it and couldn't put it down.

  3. That was a great review! I am really excited that you loved this book so much because I have it on my shelf and plan to read it soon. I am really looking forward to it now!

  4. I loved this book, as well as Peony in Love. You might like The Calligrapher's Daughter, too. I just finished it, and like Snow Flower, it's very well done historical fiction.

  5. I've been hearing a lot about this and been trying to hold off adding it to my TBR list...but this is now definitely going on the list!

  6. Thats how i felt to, some parts moved very slow, almost boring. But i also loved it and love Asian reads!

  7. I've heard a lot of great things about this book. I think its fantastic that everyone seems to like it. I have not read these yet, but they are moving up the wish list.

  8. Amanda - I find the Asian culture books to be very different then what's out there, so it is a little out of my comfort zone, but the two I've read ended up being fantastic. If you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, you probably enjoy this book too, maybe not as much, but worth trying at some time

    Rebecca - Ooo! I hope you enjoy it, it would be a great book club book, hope you have fun with it!

    Zibilee, Airelle, Serena - It's a great read, I was worried about it at first, but ended up not being able to put it down. I look forward to hearing what you think.

    Softdrink - Thanks for the suggestions, I've seen the Calligrapher's daughter around a lot lately, and was thinking about adding it to my TBR list.

    Natalie - Always nice to see some people who agree. It's always nice to find you're not the only one who thinks that way about a book.

  9. Your review is great! I'll pick it up at the library next trip. I'm also reading a historical fiction book about 19th century China which is amazing. The book is My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse. The cultural difference are eye-opening especially in that century. The book shows that China is a country with art and literature and a history that goes back thousands of years.

    I've read Memoirs of a Geisha and The Secret Life of Bees. Both are very good.