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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


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Sort by:
  • Overall
  • MM
  • 12-02-09

Exquiste writing, Exquiste story

I loved this book and was sorry when it ended. See immerses you in a beautiful story of love and friendship that lasts a lifetime.

  • Overall
  • Roma
  • Houston, TX, USA
  • 11-29-09


long and depressing

  • Overall
  • Evon
  • Mascoutah, IL, USA
  • 10-08-09

I want more!!

I really did like this book. I think I will actually miss Beautiful Moon and Lady Lu. The narrator did a good job. I can't wait to read more by Lisa See.

  • Overall
  • mm
  • 09-18-09

Thought provoking, especially for women

I will never think of "best friends" in the same way after listening to this book. Insight into the customs and beliefs. Enjoyable!

  • Overall
  • Roxanne
  • Marrero, LA, USA
  • 05-27-09

Great novel.

Great novel. Great portrayal of the culture and the times. Great reading.

  • Overall
  • M
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • 05-18-09

Loved it!

A window into the culture of 1700's China and the importance of relationships between women. This book is captivating to the last page, a testament to good writing.

  • Overall
  • Tracy
  • Lawrence, KS, USA
  • 04-28-09

OK, but kind of dull

This book was just OK. The narrator went a bit over the top and it was difficult to like any of the characters. There were parts that were interesting because I learned a lot about the role of women during that time, but the story itself wasn't great.

  • Overall

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

What an absolutely wonderful book. It taught me so much about old China and the way women were treated. I thought the narrator was exceptional and the story sorrowful and beautiful both. I loved the book. Would love to read more of the same. I would recommend this to any woman wishing to know more about other female cultures, amazing!!!

  • Overall
  • Sandra
  • Brentwood, CA, USA
  • 06-26-08

Riveting read!!!!

Loved everything about this book. It grabbed me at the very beginning and I learned so much from it and about Chinese culture. It was happy, sad, poignant and I wanted it to go on and on. Will be looking for something else by this author and contrary to what other reviewers said, I thought the narrator was terrific and part of the reason this book was so RIVETING. I had trouble putting it down and was sad when it was over.

  • Overall
  • Lanakila
  • Holly Springs, NC, USA
  • 03-18-08

An Absolute Delight!

This book offers an excellent inside look at the class and gender discrimination that pervaded the era. The author did a lovely job of weaving the relationship of the girls into an intimate and heartwrenching story. Some might say that this book is "women's work" and would not be enjoyed by men, but my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it passed the time on our daily commute.