September 22

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Author: Lisa See

First Edition: Random House 2005 

This edition: 2006 Kindle Ed. 

Original language: English

Awards: WINNER 2006 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age



From Random House:

“In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a captivating journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. Now in a deluxe paperback edition complete with an expanded Random House Reader’s Circle guide and an exclusive conversation between Lisa See and her mother, fellow writer Carolyn See, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel is, as the Seattle Times says, ‘a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power.’”


“In out country we call this type of mother love teng ai.  My son has told me that in men’s writing it is composed of two characters.  The first means pain; the second means love.  That is a mother’s love.”

“You are soft in your words but strong in your heart.”

“Remember that beside a well one does not thirst.  Beside a sister one does not despair.”

“’Read a thousand books,’ he said in a voice resonant with education (…) ‘and your words will flow like a river.’”



Beautiful, interesting, sad, and engaging.  Absolutely loved it!  The deep bond of friendship and sisterhood developed by the two women was beautiful, difficult and amazing.  The complete description of footbinding was like a car accident- I wanted to stop reading but was fascinated at the same time.  This is definitely another book for those who love stories about women, mothers, sisters, and friends.  It is also well written and very well researched.


Footbinding in China:

There are some very interesting articles on footbinding on the web:

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Chinese Bound Feet(8)

Chinese Bound Feet(8) (Photo credit: DrJohnBullas)