Thursday, August 11, 2011

Historical Thursday

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by: Lisa See

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 Stars

In 19th-century China a seven year old girl named Lily finds herself matched with a laotong or an old-same, a sister for life. She and Snow Flower go through their lives experiencing their greatest life experiences together. They are there for each other through their foot-binding, marriages, and children. They communicate in the secret woman's language of nu shu but when a misunderstanding occurs their sisterhood is threatened to be ripped apart.

This one has been on my to-read shelf for a long time and I am glad that I finally got around to it. It is told from Lily's point of view when she is old and preparing her story for her death.

It was good, the topic was well researched, the plot moved quickly, but I found that the writing was average. There were no particular passages of beauty or wordplay that stood out to me. Lily's behavior in her adult life also didn't seem to fit entirely with both her character as a whole and her childhood friendship with Snow Flower. 

What I did like were the insights into the process and mentality behind the tradition of footbinding. While it was hard to read at times (those poor little children having to go through that) it was very interesting to learn more about the thought process behind it. Also the whole idea of nu shu the secret handwriting of women fascinated me. In a culture where language can become an art form this idea of a language known and used by women is a beautiful thing.

But the point of this is that it wasn’t the novel’s plot that drew me in, it was the historical bits. The back of the book where there is all of the historical background was probably my favorite part. The plot was ok, pretty standard but the history was very appealing.

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