Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See came out in 2005, I believe.  Many of my friends had read it and loved it.  But with my usual reluctance to read stories from/about other countries, I just never got to reading it.  Well, I finally did read it and it was good.  It is the story of friendship taking place in nineteenth century China between two young girls, Lilly and Snow Flower.  The girls were matched as laotong, or "old same", a relationship that is expected to last their lifetime and, in many ways, be a stronger bond than marriage.

There is much sorrow and grief in the story as the girls develop into women and live their lives.  They have a grave misunderstanding that affects their lives to the end.  As others have talked about with the book, the foot binding ritual and how it affected the women's lives is striking.

The two things that stood out about the book for me were that I loved how the story was told from an eighty year old woman's perspective.  Very touching.  And the second thing that I found absolutely fascinating was the really found in the back of the book in the Author's Note and Acknowledgments.  In the book, the two girls use a secret language, called nu shu,  to write to each other on a fan that is passed back and forth between them.  In the Notes, the author writes about "a written language used solely by women and it had been kept a 'secret' from men for a thousand years."  Ms. See had come across a brief mention of nu shu while doing research for an article and began to search for more information.  It was so interesting to me to read her notes about nu shu.

Good story and I learned some interesting things!

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