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Publisher's Summary

Lily is haunted by memories of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower and asks the gods for forgiveness.

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 Random House Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Engrossing....Both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Claire
  • Indianapolis, IN, USA
  • 07-05-05

So so

As far as the story goes it provides an interesting glimpse into 19th century China and the customs of that time. However too much is told, not revealed, and some of the story feels undeveloped. The most negative aspect of the book however was the narrator. Her style, her voice, her emoting: AWFUL.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • Bellevue, NE, USA
  • 07-16-06

Awesome Book

I absoluttely loved this book!! The narrator was very good, and I couldn't stop listening. Awesome book in my opinion.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fantastic Story, Total Tear Jerker!

Wow. What can I say, other than I LOVED this audiobook?! The narrator was fantastic and the story was a fresh look at common themes: womanhood, friendship, regret, hardship...The historical details were beautifully woven into a touching story that everyone can relate to, even those of us that never lived in 19th Century China and cringe at the mere thought of foot binding. Really, I can't recommend this book any more highly. I cried for the last hour.

As a bonus, the author talks about the book and her writing process at the end of the audiobook.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Read !!!

I loved this book..if you like historical fiction, and you like to learn about different cultures this book is the perfect book. The narrator did a wonderful job,she is one person reading but she changes her voice so cleverly you think she is 10 different characters, the content of the book is also very entertaining, definately worth your time

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • AM
  • 02-24-14

Delicate, powerful and nuanced

This is a beautifully told story about the depth of women's friendships. It just happens to be set in China with all the appropriate historic and cultural contexts and subtexts that involves. It is a highly nuanced story, where you have to appreciate cultural implications of a time and a place that is completely different from our own. Like the folds of the fan mentioned in the title, the story unfolds deliberately and delicately. Take the time to enjoy the pacing of the story. It was a thought-provoking story for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Had some nice moments, but a little flat sometimes

What did you like best about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan? What did you like least?

I really like the atmosphere here, and the mystique surrounding the younger Snow Flower. I also enjoyed it when I found out the truth about her. Also, the descriptions of this culture and its traditions and environment were well done, as was the use of the fan to communicate. The pacing of this story, and the rather unchanging narration were a bit disappointing. The narrator's voice and presentation were engaging enough, so I'm not sure how to pinpoint what made it feel slow; perhaps the plot itself was just a tad slow for me, but I do recognize that this is literary fiction, so it's more character-driven than plot-driven.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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interesting full of detail

Not my favorite Lisa See book but as always informative and well written. Lisa see shines in Chinese Culture.

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  • Story

Hauntingly Immersive and Culturally Rich

What made the experience of listening to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan the most enjoyable?

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has been tucked within my reading list for several years now. I am ashamed of that fact, as I feel it deserves much more attention than I initially gave it.

“Seventy-five years have gone by, and I still remember the feel of the mud between my toes, the rush of water over my feet, the cold against my skin. Beautiful Moon and I were free in a way that we would never be again.”

Lily is a young girl being raised among poverty in 19th century China. When she is presented with the opportunity to be paired with a laotong (old same) she is excited at the prospect of a lifelong friend, Snow Flower. For years they will exchange fans containing secret letters written in Nu Shu, a language that has been developed by Chinese women to carry their messages safe from the eyes of men. These letters will become part of a story full of happiness, sadness, and all facets of life. But when a misunderstanding arises and mistakes are made, all that Lily loves becomes compromised. Will this friendship come to a tragic end or survive the test of time?

This is an exceptional title that it is difficult to review in full because it is sure to be a truly unique experience for the individual. Since this was a journey laden with complex feelings for myself, I am going focus only that aspect for purpose of this review. It is my goal to encourage you to explore this title and develop your own thoughts.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was much more challenging than I could have ever predicted. This is a culturally saturated read that explores some facets that are hard to digest. The practice of foot binding being one. I want to openly state right now that there were scenes in relation to the practice of binding that made my stomach turn and that is no easy feat. But I feel that the author’s ability to depict these moments so graphically is significant in regards to fostering a true understanding within the reader. This is a barbaric ritual that poses life threatening risks and left many women crippled. The intensity of See’s description solicits a very appropriate feeling that is necessary.

“They should be small, narrow, straight, pointed, and arched, yet still fragrant and soft in texture.”

Narrated with elegant prose, this is a story that effortlessly evokes emotions ranging from empathy to frustration and finally some semblance of understanding but not exactly acceptance. It is difficult to acknowledge just how trivialized women were within the Chinese cultural and society during the setting of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The amount of emphasis placed directly on outward “beauty” is infuriating. The author has represents these aspects in such a manner that it is easy to understand why having a laotong would be invaluable for our narrator.

“She looked at me the way all mothers look at their daughters—as a temporary visitor who was another mouth to feed and a body to dress until I went to my husband’s home.”

See provides us with something remarkable that stands to be indisputable evidence of the amount of time and care that must have went into the research and composure of Lily’s story. Arresting and tragically haunting, this is a book to be devoured and savored slowly. Highest recommendation to all who seek memorable historical fiction that is deliciously rich in culture.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

The author's graphic depiction of foot binding and the portrayal of how undervalued women were within the society will forever remain with me.

What about Jodi Long’s performance did you like?

The fluid tone and pace of the narration was inviting and evoked the appropriate emotions, adding additional depth to the story.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was a challenging read that solicited a wide variety of emotions ranging from sadness to frustration. The final impression was not only memorable but insightful and thought provoking.

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  • Story

Absolutely worth reading

The story is beautiful in its simplicity and honesty. There is wisdom here for each of us. It is easy to relate to Snow flower and Lily and I am grateful to have experienced their story. The remarks from the author, at the end, were just as touching as the story itself. Thank you for sharing their story with us!

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great read

read tks in payback before I listened to it, it is still a great book. recommend it to everyone