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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 Books on Tape Inc.

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

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    583
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    29
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Story

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  • Overall

Excellent in all aspects

I enjoyed listening to this book and have recommended it to many people. It was a good book to begin with and the narrorator made it even better. Not only is the story intriguing but the historical context is interesting and lends itself well to the plot. 5 stars!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

ok book, terrible narrator

The book was OK. References to Memoirs of a Geisha are inevitable, and it's not quite as good as Geisha. I kept waiting for some deeper meaning, which never came. But an enjoyable story if you're travelling, on vacation, etc. I'd recommend picking up a paper copy, though, because the narrator on this recording is terrible. She has one of the most annoying, over-enunciating voices I've heard, which takes away from the decent writing.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Highly Recommended

This was a beautiful story reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha. It was interesting to learn so much about nineteenth century China, especially about the tortures of foot-binding. At times you wanted to shake the main character to her senses because it is hard not to put on our current twenty-century values of women’s rights when relating to Lilly. That is when you realize the author’s true genius because eventually you do see the culture that is shaping the main character’s perceptions of the world and you empathize with her and see her grow. This is an amazing story of friendship that taught me so much history and I highly recommend it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Book for All Friends

This is a book that all true friends must read. It is certainly not a "feel-good" book, nor is it a "happy-ending" kind of book. I hesitate to call it a "reality" book but perhaps the word is "human." It is a book about real feelings set in a matrix that we can relate to without being overwhelmed. I think the word that best describes it is poignant. It elicits an incredible sadness and compassion. I found myself crying "no" more times than once. I also had tears in my eyes more than once. There were times when I had to stop listening to it in my car for fear I wouldn't drive safely. I believe that over time, this will stand out at one of my favorite all time books.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Poignant and insightful

This book provides a fascinating look into women's life in China, fascinating even for a man! It was often poignant as the struggles of that time and place are described; but the insights it provides into relationships and choices are often gripping. The perspective of an 80-year-old woman reviewing her life was effective. The narrator does a great job, giving a "Chinese feel" to the reading but still very clear and understandable. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Paula
  • United States
  • 07-27-11

I say "meh." An extra star if not for narrator.

Based on recommendation by others I read this because I'm on a reading jag about China. I say "meh."

The story, told in a first-person narrative, describes a special bond between two girls who keep their relationship from age 7 throughout their lives. The story starts interestingly enough. Lily, an old woman of 80 looks back on her life with regret. The remainder of the book explains why. It takes a very long time to find out why. I got impatient.
Meanwhile there were some interesting factoids such as foot binding and "nu shu" (women's writing) which sent me to the internet to read further. I also liked the parts about the Taiping Rebellion/Invasion but would have liked more historical fact on the duration, motivation and outcome. I came to sympathize with the poverty, living conditions and diseases the Chinese suffered. The story of Lily, Snow Flower and the secret fan were the least interesting part.
I have mixed views on this book, as you can see. But a HUGE disadvantage to my experience was listening to the audible.com version narrated by Janet Song, who has the most unfortunate and irritating voice and style I've ever experienced. Except when the omniscient first person (the author) quotes what another character is saying, the narrator (Ms. Song) uses a Breathless, Urgent, and Desperate voice when narrating the first person, Lily's, thoughts-even when there is no emotion what-so-ever.
Remember when Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ says "Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!!!!" Now imagine this sentence in the same frantic tone: "I washed my face and got into my bed clothes" (Oh My!!!!!)
This went on ad nauseum. Janet Song is the chosen narrator for all of Lisa See's books so I guess I won't be listening to any of those. Kindle here I come.


2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Patti
  • Chittenango, NY, United States
  • 12-30-06

Not My Most Favorite

I was mostly confused listening to this book. The relationships were not easy to decipher, so with the adition of a foreign culture it was difficult to follow the story line at first.

There is no way this story can measure up to "Memoirs of a Geisha," so you will be dissappointed if you think it does. You will read of difficulties of women in this time, and learn of the significance of their relationships. And therein lies a major facet of this story: the tension of the relationship between Lily and Snow Flower. It has been questioned by others whether Lily is seen as a heroine or a villian in this story. It is a good question.

I would not say do not get this book, but then again, there are numerous other choices that are more enjoyable.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • PG
  • Maryland
  • 02-19-18

Perhaps it was just the narrator

I learned a lot about Chinese customs and culture, presented in this book passionately and sensually, but those elements were lost in the narration. The story held my attention long enough to see through to the end, but the narrator seemed like the wrong choice, either for this story in particular or for narration at all I cannot say. I think I would have liked the book better if I had read it myself, or if it was presented by someone who conveyed the story with more conviction. But as I said, the combination of story and reader was at least enough for me to finish listening, so there’s something here worth trying.

  • Overall

LOVED IT.

ive read the book once and this audio really brought it to life. i learned how to pronounce certain words that i thought i had read right in the book. i feel like i know it better now.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Straight to the heart

I understand next to nothing about ancient Chimes tradition, but I understand friendship. Any woman can relate to true deep heart woman's friendship. This story pulled me in and kept me engaged. the narration was very good.