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Snow flower and the secret fan: a novel / Lisa See.—1st ed. p. cm. eISBN 1- 1. Reminiscing in old age—Fiction. 2. Female friendship—Fiction. 3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel · Read more · Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Random House Reader's Circle). Read more. Snow Flower & The Secret Fan a film review by Thor May Brisbane When Wendi Deng (邓文迪), from China magically fell into the pan- national world of.

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In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, acclaimed author Lisa See offers a detailed and unforgettable narrative of female friendship set in rural China in the 19th. PDF | On Jun 1, , Tammy Lai-Ming Ho and others published REVIEW ARTICLE — A review of Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. [PDF] Download Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Ebook | READ ONLINE Download at yazik.info?book=

Has feet bound at Has feet bound at age Lisa See's new novel, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," takes us into remote 19th-century China, where girls had their feet bound — meaning crushed to the size of lily flowers — in a ritual of beauty that started at age 6 and took two full years to complete. From foot-binding onward, girls and women lived secluded in a second-story chamber of their household, because " Born in in the Hunan province, Lily started off as "a second worthless girl" in a poor farming family.

Because her feet were high in the arch and potentially breathtaking, she had the potential to marry well and elevate the status of her family. She could also enter a second formal match, to another woman, a lifetime best friend called a sworn sister or laotong. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose — to have sons.

Snow Flower is from a high family in a prestigious neighboring town, her grandfather an imperial scholar. She can teach Lily the social rituals of important families.

Lily can teach her the humble arts of cooking and cleaning. Rural, 19th-century China was a culture in which education and scholarship was limited to the male elite. Secluded from age 7 until death, "married out" into a husband's family, where they remained abject in stature and subservient to their husband's mother unless they had sons, women were isolated from anyone who cared about them personally.

What they said and how they communicated was rigidly formalized, learning the calligraphy of men was prohibited, so they developed a secret writing called nu shu. Only in nu shu and only to each other could they write or speak from the heart. The first communication between Snow Flower and Lily was inscribed on a fan in the code of nu shu.

The secret fan became the journal of their lives. That fan guides Lily as she records her memoirs. Because she is old and times have changed, she filters her memories through the late-life awareness of what mattered and what didn't. And what mattered most of all was the friendship with Snow Flower.

This is a stunning setup for describing a culture inside a story, and Lisa See takes full advantage of it. On every page, she provides fascinating details of the lives of women in China. The deft weave of fact and fiction stands out as her signature strength: All her books probe themes like archaeological theft, the smuggling of undocumented immigrants, sweatshop labor.

To my horror, I discovered that they look exactly like high-heeled shoes. That is the brilliance of the light See shines between cultures. She lives in Southern California.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer Loyalty and love abide in a culture that cripples girls by K Long, Book Editor When our narrator Lily is 6 years old, her mother strikes her hard across the face, a slap for good luck and to ward off evil spirits on the cusp of Lily's foot binding.

It is a measure of author Lisa See's craft that by the time a grown Lily slaps her own daughter, Jade, we no longer register surprise.

In her fourth book, See has triumphed, writing an achingly beautiful, understated and absorbing story of love. The love is between Lily and Snow Flower, her laotong, a match with another girl that Chinese families once considered as significant as a good marriage.

Laotong means "old same" and served as a designated soul mate to help each woman navigate a life of sorrow, pain and confinement. All three converge in foot binding, a four-year ordeal that Lily describes as the novel begins in a straightforward, step-by-step fashion. It sears a reader to know that the toes finally break and rattle loose in the bindings, that mothers deform their daughters' feet to achieve "golden lilies," dumpling- sized feet considered highly desirable and highly erotic.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The child of a poor farmer, Lily carries on her crippled feet the prospect of marriage into a better life - and therefore the survival of her extended family. The warring matchmakers are marvelous characters, and the story made me recall the girl closest to my own laotong. See's novel contains all the elements - joy, knowledge, betrayal, erotica - that give female friends a power over each other that husbands cannot match.

Lily tells her story chronologically, introducing herself in old age: "I am what they call in our village 'one who has not yet died' - a widow, eighty years old.

The reader picks up vocabulary from context and tension from Lily's forthright disclosure that much will go wrong. This novel has none of the overripe, operatic tone of "The Joy Luck Club.

Because they were confined to upstairs chambers in their fathers' homes, then their husbands', Lily and Snow Flower must find a way to cultivate their bond. The pair write on a secret fan in Nu Shu, a 1,year-old language thought to be the only one ever invented and sustained for the exclusive use of women.

See tells us in her end note that Nu Shu obsessed her, that she traveled from her Los Angeles home to the Chinese province of Jiangyong to meet surviving practitioners. Here she found the remarkable, tucked-away town of Tongkou, in which she set her novel. Last year, Ann Patchett garnered a lot of favorable attention for her depiction of female friendship in the memoir "Truth and Beauty. Brownworth From its understated opening passage titled "Sitting Quietly," through to its extraordinary finish, Lisa See's latest novel captivates.

Phrases like "breathtaking" are used so often to describe what is usually dreary prose, deaf to nuance, that one comes to ignore such modifiers as mere hyperbole crafted by publicists. In , in China's Hunan Province, Lily is born a "so-so girl to a so-so family in a so-so village. Neither poor nor rich she has one irrevocable flaw: she is female. At seven, her feet are bound and soon she is, along with the other older girls and women, relegated to the upper story of the house where women are kept like pretty crippled birds in rooms with single windows and no access to the outer world.

Caged and cowed by the men who orchestrate their lives, they have no recourse to anything resembling a fully actualized life. Into this suffocating and pain-wracked world, in which life careens between physical drudgeries and emotional cataclysm, there appears Snow Flower, Lily's laotong or "old same," a girl of vaguely similar breeding and exact age who shares with her the nu shu.

Nu shu is a 1,year-old language specific to the Hunan Province of encoded ideograms devised by women for women. It is, See, explains in a brief early note, "the only written language in the world to have been created by women exclusively for their own use.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is told by Lily from the vantage point of her old age. At 80, "I have nothing left to lose and few to offend. From the hideous cruelty of her foot-binding at seven Lily's mother tells her over and over, "Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace. The inferior status that women held is made all the more hellish by the adherence to Confucius and to a range of ancient superstitions. The mesmerizing relationship between Lily and Snow Flower comes to supersede everything in Lily's life - it sustains her through every harrowing moment.

As she re-reads messages on the fan, Lily recalls "We were to be like long vines with entwined roots, like trees that stand a thousand years, like a pair of mandarin ducks mated for life.

This haunting, beautiful and ineffably sad tale of longing so intense as to be taken beyond the grave, is written in See's characteristically strong prose. She has a keen ear for Lily's yearning, and manages to depict an era and place vastly different from our own Westernized world with grace, acumen and not a little humility.

In her capable hands, Lily evolves as a character with whom the reader of either gender can feel a deep affinity, for Lily's quest is irrespective of era or geography or even isolation. Like Lydia Kwa's equally compelling, This Place Called Absence, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan journeys into the dark duality of women's lives in an earlier time, illustrating what it was to live an exterior life from dawn till dusk while maintaining a deep and resonant interior life that was secret to all, save one.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is redolent of history, memory and the brutal nature of the unrequited. It is an extraordinary novel, simply breathtaking. Victoria A. Brownworth is the author of several works of fiction and non- fiction, and has edited numerous collections of short stories and essays, including the award-winning Coming Out of Cancer. She wrote about foot binding for the Harrington Literary Quarterly in They were the reproductive oxen of a culture that was ruled by men for men, a culture that insisted upon absolute obedience and lots and lots of baby boys from "bed business.

They endured the abject pain and humiliation of foot binding, in effect undergoing primitive reconstructive surgery to appeal to potential suitors. All of this is well-trod history, a rich seam that has been excavated by many novelists both here and in Asia. What See brings to the story is a historical secret, something, as she explains in the afterword to this book, that she herself learned from Wang Ping's book on the history of foot-binding in China, "Aching for Beauty.

It was a gender-specific lexicon; men couldn't write or read it and therefore couldn't suppress it. Nu shu becomes a lifeline between the two protagonists in See's novel: Lily, the daughter of an uneducated, neglectful farmer and an overbearing matriarch, is now the year-old spinster who narrates this story, and Snow Flower is a girl from the upscale village of Tongkou who has delusions of hauteur.

The two girls, who are separated by thousands of miles and vastly different cultural assumptions, are brought together by a diviner, a kind of matchmaker who sees in Snow Flower and Lily the possibility of a laotong , a rare conjoining of two kindred souls that lasts a lifetime.

This laotong is put to the test in myriad ways as See's story unfolds, changing like the Chinese characters on the shared fan that Snow Flower and Lily decorate with their delicate calligraphy and exchange back and forth across the passing years.

Bound by obdurate tradition, the two friends sense something of the liberating force in each other, the possibility that the future could burn brighter from their mutual ardor.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

China's culture of ritual and ceremony is both an attraction and a repellent for the two girls, as it is for readers of See's evocative novel. Lily is entranced by Snow Flower's elaborate finery, her "sky-blue tunic embroidered with a cloud pattern," her feathery penmanship and her gift for nu shu metaphor. Snow Flower, in turn, envies Lily's capacity for practical labor, the handiwork of the working class.

But ritual leads to strangulation of the spirit. Stifled by the mores of their culture, Snow Flower and Lily are locked in cages within cages, altering their personas to attract a better class of husband and putting on airs with each other. This leads to a fissure in their laotong as the two friends glean each other's secrets through the hazy scrim of Chinese custom. Even nu shu , the very thing that allows their friendship to blossom, is an elaborate code, another ritual of indirection and obfuscation.

The tragic irony that provides the heart-rending conclusion to See's novel results from a misreading of nu shu ; nuance and shading in a single line turns the entire story on its axis. See's translucent prose style gleams with the beauty of 19th century Chinese culture but also makes us burn with indignation at its sexist ugliness and injustice.

By bringing the secret world of these Chinese women into vivid relief, See has conjured up an alien world that is the better for being lost. But scholars identified the script as nu shu , a writing that had been used exclusively by women for over a thousand years in a remote area of southern Hunan province.

Nu shu was different from conventional Chinese script in that it was phonetic and its interpretation was based on context. Years later when author Lisa See became aware of nu shu , her discovery turned into an obsession, resulting in her fourth novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Written in the style of a memoir, the book is narrated by year-old Lily Yi as she looks back on her life. Her story begins in in her village of Puwei in southwestern China. Her father is a hardworking, respected farmer.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Teacher’s Guide

As in all traditional Chinese families, sons are revered and daughters are seen as temporary obligations, to be passed on to other families at the time of marriage. Even at age 5, Lily, the third daughter in a family of five children, understands her position. But everything changes on the day the village diviner arrives to help her mother choose a propitious date for Lily and her cousin to begin having their feet bound.

The diviner declares that Lily is no ordinary child. She repeats what Mama told her about a lady letting no ugliness into her life. Madame Wang visits Lily several months later. Lily knows that Madame Wang is a shrewd businesswoman, but her love for Snow Flower is her greatest weakness. In her hurt and anger, Lily perpetuates violence in the same way that Mama did.

She encourages Jade, as Mama encouraged Lily, to be a true lady and to not feel "ugly" emotions, even as she herself feels the very emotions she warns against. Active Themes Lily doesn't offer Madame Wang tea and tells her it's too early to find Jade a marriage match.

Madame Wang pulls out a fan and mentions the laotong match between Jade and Spring Moon. Lily asks for the fan and reads the note on it, which is nearly the same as what Lily received from Snow Flower many years ago. Madame Wang calls Lily out on severing her match with Snow Flower, and Lily replies that she cannot match Jade with a butcher's daughter.

She continues that Madame Wang told them years ago to not allow "concubines" into their relationship, asking if Madame Wang knows what Snow Flower has done. Lily is intentionally rude to Madame Wang, again because she knows that it's possible to do damage and cause personal pain while still officially following tradition.

Interestingly, Lily is unable to recognize that she herself severed the laotong contract with Snow Flower, not the other way around. This again indicates that Lily hasn't truly learned the lessons that nu shu and language was supposed to teach her. Active Themes Lily tosses the fan at Madame Wang. Madame Wang agrees to pass the message to Snow Flower, and then kindly says that while Lily once had nothing but pretty feet, she now has an abundance of malice.

Madame Wang isn't willing to let Lily win. She sees that Lily has been blinded by her good fortune, and that her success comes at the expense of true love. However, both Snow Flower and Madame Wang are in attendance. Lily sits across the circle and participates in the singing and chanting. Lily is still concerned enough with appearances to not skip the Sitting and Singing. The songs and chants provide a familiar backdrop for the very unfamiliar emotions Lily and Snow Flower now experience.

Active Themes The bride's mother asks Snow Flower to tell them of her life, and Lily is shocked to hear Snow Flower announce that she will sing a Letter of Vituperation a public grievance. Snow Flower starts, "the pheasant squawks and the sound carries far.

She asks Lily why she turned away, and why she refused Spring Moon as Jade's laotong. She begs Lily to not make a third generation of women suffer. With the Letter of Vituperation, Snow Flower uses Lily's love of formal and traditional avenues to try to talk to her laotong and express her emotions.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

She essentially tries to meet Lily on her own playing field. We see that Snow Flower still has hope that her family can escape its ill fortune, with her request that Lily not make Spring Moon suffer.

She knows that a match with Jade might save her from the same fate as Snow Flower and her mother, and so she appeals to a sense of female solidarity—but this is something that Lily has never really felt. Active Themes Lily begins her own Letter of Vituperation in retaliation. She says that all women know hard lives, but that Snow Flower thinks her own hard life is special. Lily cries as she tells Snow Flower that she always remained true, and accuses Snow Flower of embracing sworn sisters.

Lily continues that as women, they have to accept when their husbands turn away from them, but it's merciless when women turn away from other women. She grows even angrier and begins telling the room everything she can about Snow Flower, including that she and the butcher don't obey the laws regarding having sex after birth.

At this point in her life, Lily truly believes that all women are simply destined to suffer.

She justifies the violence, pain, and suffering that Snow Flower experiences as being nothing out of the ordinary and, further, feels that they're deserved. She shifts the blame for Snow Flower's fate onto Snow Flower herself, indicating that Snow Flower is simply being punished for her numerous transgressions. Active Themes Related Quotes with Explanations Lily tells the reader that in the moment she thought she was free, but realizes now that she was becoming trapped in hatred for Snow Flower.

Snow Flower, crying, addresses Lily and says that the women in her village don't criticize her, but comfort her and visit her. She says she feels like a bird flying without its mate.

Lily thinks of her grievance against Mama and ignores Snow Flower. Snow Flower gets up and leaves, and not even Madame Wang follows her. Lily as the narrator understands that hatred traps people, while love can free them.

Snow Flower evidently already understands this, as she tries to surround herself with people who love her without the judgment and conditions that Lily has. Snow Flower is so dishonored by Lily pointing out her transgressions that nobody can comfort her and still be considered proper.

Active Themes Lily tells the reader that when she looks back on that day, she knows that she was despicable. However, she gained the respect of every other woman there by exposing a woman who did not conform, and destroyed Snow Flower in the process.

Lily's Song of Vituperation became known and news of Snow Flower's disgrace spread.A sworn sisterhood dissolved when girls were married out to other villages. She has a keen ear for Lily's yearning, and manages to depict an era and place vastly different from our own Westernized world with grace, acumen and not a little humility. She makes a plan to fetch Aunt and Mama, and then they It sears a reader to know that the toes finally break and rattle loose in the bindings, that mothers deform their daughters' feet to achieve "golden lilies," dumpling- sized feet considered highly desirable and highly erotic.

Lily vows to never again enter the outside world of men.

Before she leaves, Madame Wang addresses Aunt and says that Lily's laotong relationship may make it possible for Beautiful Moon to also Snow Flower and the Secret Fan A language kept a secret for a thousand years forms the backdrop for an unforgettable novel of two Chinese women whose friendship and love sustains them through their lives.

At 80, "I have nothing left to lose and few to offend.