In 19th-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu ("women's writing"). Some girls were paired with laotongs, "old sames", in emotional matches that lasted throughout 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, they 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 lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.
©2005 Lisa See; (P)2005 Books on Tape Inc.
"Engrossing....Both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle." (Publishers Weekly)
I have listened to both "shanghai girls" and "dreams of joy". This title is not nearly as compelling. It is slow paced, and frustrating. Skip it.
The story was disappointing. I didn't find any of the characters likable. The friendship between the two main women left me empty. The placid acceptance of the thankless role of women in China at the time of the story, not to mention the AWFUL foot binding, was so frustrating and depressing. It made me want to shake the woman. GET ANGRY! At least feel angry. Express your anger about your plight and the plight of women to your dearest friend. But she didn't. In addition, I found the reader's delivery distracting. Even had the material been something I liked, the way it was told would have ruined it.
I hope not!
Her delivery was so dramatized, I kept expecting something really big was going to happen in the next sentence. It rarely did.
It was interesting to learn about Chinese culture.
Lisa See's memoir was interesting but with too many verbose, repetitious, boring stretches. Books about Chinese culture have always interested me but I had never heard of the lautong (sp) relationship between girls. It bothered me because it seemed to encourage lesbianism. I also didn't care for the narrator. The way she clipped words was unnatural and she made everything sound too melodramatic. If you want a good book about Chinese life, I would recommend one written by Pearl Buck.
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