Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


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As women, Lily and Snow Flower are forbidden from learning "men's writing" and instead learn nu shu , a form of writing created by and for women to communicate secretly with each other. Nu shu, however, isn't just writing in the conventional sense; it encompasses an entire cultural system that is specifically female, comprised of songs and stories meant to be performed for other women, embroidery and other textile work, and more conventional correspondence, like….

Experiencing pain and suffering is linked early on to the simple fact of being female. A girl is expected to undergo the painful process of foot binding starting around age six. While tiny bound feet are considered attractive, the pain a girl experiences during the binding process is also supposed to prepare her to endure the emotionally wrought experience of "marrying out" and leaving one's natal home, and then the physical pain of childbirth. As a work of historical fiction, the culture, traditions, and actual historical events of the time permeate every aspect of the novel, simply by virtue of the genre.

However, Lily 's engagement with culture and tradition doesn't just dictate how her life should be lived; rather, the way in which she internalizes and uses her culture and beliefs blinds her to a more holistic understanding of the individuals and events in her life. Sign In Sign Up. Sitting Quietly Daughter Days: Milk Years Daughter Days: The Fan Daughter Days: Snow Flower Daughter Days: Beautiful Moon Hair-Pinning Days: Joy and Sorrow Rice-and-Salt Days: Into the Mountains Rice-and-Salt Days: Letter of Vituperation Rice-and-Salt Days: But no woman should live longer than her children.

It is against the law of nature. If she does, why wouldn't she wish to leap from a cliff, hang from a branch, or swallow lye? View all 23 comments.


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I had high hopes for this book, but ended up feeling deflated and disappointed. Two aspects of the book were interesting: Unfortunately, the book also has two major problems: The story deals with two girls who are matched as 'old sames,' sort I had high hopes for this book, but ended up feeling deflated and disappointed.

The story deals with two girls who are matched as 'old sames,' sort of a best-girlfriend relationship that is meant to last for life. Unfortunately, the story of their friendship is just not compelling, and I kept feeling like the author missed the opportunity to tell a really interesting story within the context of the world she creates.

Aside from being boring the worst sin in fiction I was also disappointed with the way she handled the intimacy of the friendship between the two women, using what I call the 'cheap and easy Hollywood method for showing intimacy. I thought it was a really shallow treatment of a very deep subject. It was hugely disappointing.


  • Snow Flower And The Secret Fan () - Rotten Tomatoes;
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  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.
  • I don't recommend it. View all 32 comments. Then I had an ex-boyfriend make the infuriating statement that rich women have small feet. I pointed out that his celebrity crush, Paris Hilton yeah, another reason I dumped him has huge size-eleven feet. My teenage-self took a lot of comfort in the fact that foot size is pre-ordained and unchangeable.

    Clown-sized feet can strike the smart, the rich, the beautiful. Then I read this book and learn it is possible to change your foot size. And you know what? I enjoy being able to wiggle my toes and jump around. So, thank you, Lisa See! For once in my life, I am content with my big feet. And I owe it all to your graphic descriptions of this ancient Chinese method.

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    Blood, putrefaction, pain, breaking bones, risk of death! I cannot believe those women were subjected to such brutal mutilation for the sake of beauty. Then they were still expected to clean the house perched on those tiny, unstable feet. The foot binding portion of the book was the highlight for me. The inspiration for the book was nu shu , a written language developed by Chinese women and kept secret from men for hundreds of years. Beyond the foot biding event and nu shu device, this was really a story about a female friendship that was deep and even erotic at times.

    Putting aside any problems with the plot, their emotions toward each other were complex and meaningful.

    There was hope and joy, but mostly there was pain. During an event with Lisa last night, she spoke of how depressing writing can be. Even worse, she may have to stay in that mindset for days or weeks until that section is completely written. I suspected the career engenders self-doubt. I commend Lisa for giving us a realistic look at the treatment of and expectations for women in that day and age. Women were isolated and undervalued. Their worth was determined solely by whether they could produce sons.

    But honestly, my main complaint about the book is how depressing it was. I kept waiting for some great act of heroism. Yet the women stuck to their traditional roles. The main character not only repeated the indoctrination, she believed it! I kept routing for one character to leave an abusive husband or, at very least, stand up to her oppressive mother-in-law. Normally I criticize authors for deviating from historical facts in order to cater to a modern readership.

    This time, I think Lisa stayed so true to the setting that she turned me off. Life was hard for women back then. But does that make for an enjoyable read? And I think that was my problem. I had the wrong expectations as I entered this book. It wasn't a sprawling historical epic, filled with exciting action, heart-fluttering romance, and distant voyages like Shogun one of the few other historical fictions I have read that are set in Asia.

    It was a largely quiet book about quiet life. Lisa herself admitted she writes sad books. And when she started this book, no one thought it would be successful. No one will read that! Well, she proved them wrong. Lots of people read it. Heck, I read it. Even more people will probably see the movie. It made me appreciate the freedom women enjoy today, as well as the potential depth of female friendship. View all 22 comments. An Excellent Choice for Book Clubs I had a hard time putting down this book and felt utterly transported to a village in the Hunan province in central south China during the early to mid-nineteenth century.

    The narrator, year-old Lily, who refers to herself as one who has "yet to die," tells the story of her life. She has outlived her family members and relates the story of her formative years--and her relationship with another woman, Snow Flower. This well written tale is related with clarity An Excellent Choice for Book Clubs I had a hard time putting down this book and felt utterly transported to a village in the Hunan province in central south China during the early to mid-nineteenth century. This well written tale is related with clarity, sentiment, and most poignantly, remorse.

    It's through remorse that the reader comes to know the true character of Lily, as she reflects upon a misunderstanding she had with her one true love. Beyond the reflection of Lily's relationship with Snow Flower, a girl she meets at the age of six when they are introduced by the local matchmaker and tied by contract to forever be known as "laotongs," or "old sames," this story provides a lesson in Chinese history and culture.

    Many have heard of the tradition of feet binding, but through Lisa See's writing, one experiences the excruciating pain and the meaning behind a mother's duty to bind her "worthless" daughters' feet. It's all about marriage and, of course, sex. At once I went to the Internet to look for images of bound feet because I had a terribly hard time visualizing a foot only seven centimeters in length.

    I enjoyed every minute of reading this story and I highly recommend it. I think it would make an excellent selection for book clubs, given the vast number of elements to spark topics of conversation: Chinese culture--past and present; Mother-daughter relationships; Foot-binding; Arranged marriage; Female relationships; Lesbian relationships? View all 5 comments. I knew it was not right for me — as a girl and later as a woman — to want or expect it, but I did, and this unjustified desire has been at the root of every problem I have experienced in my life.

    I adore historical fiction that can really immerse me in another time and place and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan did just that. Transported back to 19th century China, I believe I arrived at a better understanding of a woma "For my entire life I longed for love. Transported back to 19th century China, I believe I arrived at a better understanding of a woman's position in this society. I learned what it was like to be a daughter, a sister, a wife and a daughter-in-law. I am admittedly grateful for not ever having to experience these often overwhelmingly harsh relationships in the way that these women did!

    Not for an instant can I imagine having to yearn for my mother's love with the feeling that it was something impossible to attain. And, I most certainly could not fathom bending to my mother-in-law's every command and needing to act as a lowly "visitor" in her home even as the wife of her own son. The cultural practice of footbinding was truly horrific and cringeworthy.

    If you, like me, decide to google any images, please consider yourself forewarned that it really does look as awful and disfiguring as you would no doubt imagine.

    Снежный цветок и заветный веер () - IMDb

    Yet, a young girl's future and her marriageability depended heavily on the result of this archaic practice. The one relationship that I found endearing and one that transcends both time and culture is that of a true friendship. This is so beautifully demonstrated in the bond between the narrator, Lily, and Snow Flower, her "old same". Lisa See really brings to life the nuances of their lifelong friendship which began as little girls with a contract sealing their fates in a laotong relationship.

    A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose — to have sons. The women's secret form of writing, or nu shu, begins with the communication between the little girls on the folds of a special fan that will provide a chronicle of their extraordinary relationship throughout their lives. As married women, they experience both the happiness and the sorrow of giving birth and living under the heavy thumbs of their husbands and mothers-in-law in households that scorn rather than cherish them.

    And, as with some friendships, these women experience the differences in social standings within a community and suffer from misunderstandings and ultimate betrayal. Can a friendship really withstand anything? This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in the culture of China during this period and those that enjoy reading about the various connections between women. If you've ever had a true friend, this book will truly speak to you and perhaps make you just a tad nostalgic about the carefree days when you could hope and giggle with your own "bestie".

    View all 42 comments. I tried to read it. It was so non-compelling, who were these little mice of women, what were they up to, why should I care? The plot didn't, the characters didn't and so I couldn't get past about page My mind kept drifting off and by the time I was conscious of reading again I wouldn't know what had happened so I had to reread it again and again up unto the fourth rereading of the same pages. Exactly the same experience I had with Rushdie's Satanic Verses.

    So I gave up. I tho I tried to read it. I thought it was probably me and not the book, so I downloaded the film. Lord, was it bad or what? Exactly the same experience, it wasn't any more interesting. It's an experience I'm not going to have with the Satanic Verses though. I doubt there's a director still alive brave enough to make a film of that book. View all 47 comments. I ended up enjoying this book because it was so beautifully written and it took me deep into a world so unlike my own; thank goodness for that!

    I had a complete misconception of what foot binding entailed. There were also many examples given of what I consider other horrendous cust I ended up enjoying this book because it was so beautifully written and it took me deep into a world so unlike my own; thank goodness for that! There were also many examples given of what I consider other horrendous customs and beliefs. I was able to feel some empathy for the storywriter, because I could understand her longing to be loved and the difficulties she had in her upbringing that formed her personality, even though I sometimes had a hard time liking her and many of the characters.

    I was also irritated by so much of the book. Also, the paperback has some discussion questions at the end which might come in handy as I read this book for my book club. And they also highlight how our various expectations of ourselves and others imposed by our societies can influence human beings. It also made me think a lot about the corrosive power of unresolved anger and trauma. View all 14 comments. This has got to be one of the most beautiful, yet heartbreaking books that I have ever read. The subject matter is horrific but the story is truly engaging.

    The main storyline in this book is about the horrible patriarchal practise, foot-binding, that took place in China in the past. Obviously foot-binding was a practice to control women, which was a point I made to a feminist I was talking to when a man suddenly interrupted our conversation and accused us of waging a war against men! They suffered so much abuse and, from a very young age, they were cultivated for marriage because, after all, all women were good for was for giving birth to sons.

    Excuse my sarcastic tone but I cannot wrap my head around how awful this part of Chinese history is. Instead of protecting women in society, women were made to feel worthless and their lives are also put into peril. It was truly heartbreaking. Lisa See brilliantly captured the reality of Chinese life in the past.

    I also thought that part of the book about the laotang and sisterhood was lovely, as well as the parts about the secret writing, and the art of storytelling. View all 18 comments. I actually wavered between giving this book a rating of 3 or 4 stars. This is not because Lisa See was unable to portray the life in this feudal Chinese society well, because much of this was vivid and interesting.

    The oppression of women, including the horrors of footbinding, isolation and servitude to men and one's in-laws were all clearly and often dismayingly illustrated. One problem with this novel is how much better the tale could have been related if written in the third person, rather tha I actually wavered between giving this book a rating of 3 or 4 stars. One problem with this novel is how much better the tale could have been related if written in the third person, rather than the use of Lily as narrator. After learning throughout this book that she was a sensitive, caring, pledged lifelong friend; she becomes a cruel,selfish and judgemental harridan to Snow Flower.

    These very factors were so antithetical to what was supposed to have been developed between these two women and what they had always professed would be their relationship, that it was difficult to continue the reading with the same attitude of enjoyment and appreciation. I often found that See did not work hard enough to develop either her plot lines or her characters. She often glossed over some segments, seemingly in order to reach her next period of time.

    Despite these criticisms, I found this book often compelling with a level of anticipation for the reader. View all 43 comments. Ever since reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I've been looking for a book that will let me relive that excitement. I would have to say that this book did not.

    I found it difficult to get invested in the characters who seemed somewhat flat to me. The narrator wasn't engaging enough to make me feel a connection to her. Really, the strength of the book in my opinion was the detail it spent in developi Ever since reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I've been looking for a book that will let me relive that excitement.

    Really, the strength of the book in my opinion was the detail it spent in developing an understanding of the cultural issues surrounding Chinese women and the custom of footbinding. Which, of course, is horrible mutilation to a woman living in the 21st century Western world, but was the very epitome of beauty and sexual turn-on for 19th century Chinese. I wanted to care more about them than I did, but when the book was over, I was more interested in Googling pictures of bound feet than mourning the loss of their friendship and the misunderstandings that undid the two main characters.

    View all 7 comments. My book club was more interested in talking about their trips to China than See's book. So I am happy for Good Reads. While I found the writing journalistic: No phrase or passage noteworthy for its beauty or addition to literature. I was fascinated, however, by the potential for beautiful prose but lists just don't do that for me. The publisher's missed an opportunity to replicate the My book club was more interested in talking about their trips to China than See's book.

    The publisher's missed an opportunity to replicate the secret fan from See's clues - would have been a bonus. The dynamics of the women's relationships were fascinating, reminiscent of The Joy Luck Club. I sorrowed at the footbound therefore dutybound therefore ironbound feminine mind. A Taiwanese medical student defects to Mainland China due to Nationalist persecution, became an army surgeon during Korean War, and later went to Tibet as a doctor, while pining for his A snobbish producer makes a documentary about the extraordinary behavior of her neighbor who believes himself to be Superman.

    SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN - Official Trailer

    An English Duke from is inadvertedly dragged to modern day New York where he falls for a plucky advertising executive. In Iowa, an adopted girl discovers her talent for butter carving and finds herself pitted against an ambitious local woman in their town's annual contest. A documentary on Cecilia Chiang, the woman who introduced America to authentic Chinese food.

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

    Chiang opened her internationally renowned restaurant The Mandarin in in San Francisco and In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai.

    Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The book explores the culture of 19th century China through a woman's eyes; in the book you see real relationships and heartbreak.

    The movie squanders all of that in favor of appearing "artistic" or "deep"; something it does not pull off at all. They unnecessarily add some modern characters to "parallel" the girls from the book. Said modern characters randomly switch between speaking Chinese and English, adding to the overall confusion and mess of the movie.

    The movie constantly switches back and forth from the modern to the actual book story line, making it extremely hard to follow, even for someone who has read the book. This also means that you make no real attachment to any of the characters. They change lines around and only include scenes of "significance" from the book- making it all completely insignificant. You get no sense of the deep-heart love they speak of.

    You barely see the characters at all. Overall, it is essentially two hours of thinking, "Is the movie going to start yet? Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video. Start your free trial.


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