Retro Friday reviews are hosted by Angieville. Basically you post a review of an older book on Fridays.
Lily’s lot in life is about to change. You see, she was born to a farming family. When the diviner and the matchmaker examine her feet, they decide she is destined for better things, such as a match with a laotong, old same, which is a lifetime match held above even marriage vows. Snow Flower, Lily’s laotong, sends Lily a fan by way of introduction with a message written in Nu Shu, women’s language. What unfolds over Snow Flower And The Secret Fan by Lisa See is a lifetime of friendship, replete with secrets, betrayals, and love.
Snow Flower And The Secret Fan is fascinating historical fiction. While the feet binding parts made me sick to my stomach, the history teacher in me was like YES! They did this to denote class. Women with bound feet were a status symbol, much like trophy wives today. If a man’s wife had bound feet, it showed he was rich enough to afford a wife who didn’t have to work. There’s quite a bit mentioned on bound feet in Lisa See’s book as well as on the women who did not have bound feet and what it means when the binding is messed up. It’s a rather fascinating exploration of class in nineteenth century China.
There are definitely greater themes at work in Snow Flower And The Secret Fan. Questions are asked such as what does it mean to be a woman? One has a duty to the husband and family. What’s a woman’s worth? Is it in her feet? How many sons she bears? We see in this novel that women at the time pretty much have no worth at all, they are beholden to others. To their family at first, and then when married off, to the husband and his family. Then we also see how a woman’s worth is calculated in the way that she looks, in how small her golden lilies aka her feet are. It’s all very fascinating to discuss and I imagine a book club would have more to say on this, such as how even today women are evaluated on their looks and if you look a certain way society may assess you to have more ‘worth’.
As I mentioned earlier, friendship is examined as well. The dynamics between having many acquintances and just one close friend are examined in the dichotomy of the sworn sisters and the laotong bond. Which also plays into class, as the lower classes have sworn sisters and the upper class has laotong. We see for most of the novel Lily and Snow Flower have a harmonious relationship, each learning from the other. However, Snow Flower ends up really hurting Lily which then goes into how much a friendship can truly handly and endure.
Snow Flower And The Secret Fan by Lisa See is a richly detailed novel. It is interesting and I learned SO much from this book. I actually find myself looking forward to reading more of Lisa See’s work.
Disclosure: Purchased copy.