BOOKS & GEAR

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A novel set in China

April 3, 2015
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Whenever I prepare for a long flight, I often download a novel or two that’s set in the destination that I’m visiting. In preparation for our trip to China, I selected Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Random House, 2005) by Lisa See.

This fast-moving, beautifully written story revolves around the friendship between two peasant girls in South China—as told by one of them, now an 80-year-old widow, as she looks back upon her life.

In addition to weaving a story about women’s friendships in China in the mid-1800s, the e-book version includes in-depth annotations that provide historical background and describe customs of that period, some of which remain part of contemporary Chinese culture.

Some traditions described in the novel:

  • Women leaving their natal family to join their husband’s family after marriage;
  • Female infanticide and women’s worth being determined by her ability to breed sons;
  • Inferior treatment of women on many levels as compared to men;
  • Keeping of concubines in the household;
  • Footbinding of young girls, which resulted in limited mobility, infection and the deaths of one in ten;
  • Association between footbinding and sexuality;
  • Association of the color red with good luck and happiness;
  • Use of calligraphy both as an art form and means of communication
  • Devastating effects of opium usage; and
  • Ancestor worship and reverence for the aged;

Whether or not you are headed to China, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan makes for a fascinating read. (I’ve already downloaded another one of Lisa See’s novels.)


  • Reply
    Suzanne Stavert
    April 3, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    I have not read that book in a very long time. Thank you for the reminder! Travel safe!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      April 3, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      It’s one of those books that I “should have” read a long time ago…but the timing turned out to be right.

  • Reply
    Laura
    April 7, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Thanks for the suggestion, Irene! I just picked it up. I love the technology of e-books but still love the feel of a real book and turning pages. I also like making use of my tax dollars at our fabulous Library!

  • Reply
    Sheryl
    April 8, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I love the way this sounds..and I’m due for a new book – thanks!

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