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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

BOOK review
Started on: 7.March.2012

Finished on: 12 .March.2012
Book Title : Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author : Lisa See
Publisher : Random House
Pages : 278 Pages
Price: $10.20 (

"So here I am alone with my thoughts and this fan before me. When I pick it up, it's strange how light it feels in my hands, for it records so much joy and so much grief... Memories tear across my eyes. These last forty years, I have read it so many times that it is memorized like a childhood song."

This story is told by a woman named Lily, when she was eighty years old. She looks back on her life, starting when she was just a five year-old child during her Daughter Days. Lily was born as a child of a farmer; and as a child who was born in 1823, Lily had to go through painful experience of foot-binding at age 7. At the same time, she met her laotong, which means sworn sisters; a relationship closer than husband and wife. And so, this story tells the life of Lily, along with her laotong, Snow Flower. Lily was only a daughter of a farmer, while Snow Flower was known to come from a prosperous family. They became laotong, in hope that Snow Flower will be able to change Lily's life.

"We, Miss Snow Flower of Tongkou Village and Miss Lily of Puwei Village will be true to each other. We will comfort each other with kind words. We will ease each other's hearts... On this day, we, Miss Snow Flower and Miss Lily have spoken true words. We swear a bond... For then thousand years, we will be like two flowers in the same garden. Never a step apart, never a harsh word between us. We will be old sames until we die."

Lily and Snow Flower was born in the same year and on the same day. Even though they both have different personalities despite having the same sign, everything about them matched. And so their foot-binding process began at the same time. Together, they go through the suffering; creating the beautiful small feet everyone dreamed of, which then changed Lily's life forever.
"They say fall is the most propitious time to start footbinding, but only because winter is coming and cold weather helps numb the feet. Was I excited? No. I was scared."

"My small feet would be offered as proof to my prospective in-laws of my personal discipline and my ability to endure the pain of childbirth, as well as whatever misfortunes might lie ahead."

Both of them grew up together, always writing to each other on a fan with Nu Shu, a secret women's writing. At the age of sixteen, both of them are going to marry out, to a man whom they never even know before. Unexpectedly, this marriage brings different fortunes to Lily and Snow Flower. Lily's beautiful feet got her a marriage to the son of the most powerful family in the country; while Snow Flower got married to a butcher - which was considered low and unworthy.  Even so, both of them are living the lives of a wife: obeying the orders of their mother-in-law, do bed business with their husband, and most important of all: have sons.

"You married out, you go to another village. Your mother-in-law is cruel. Your husband doesn't care for you. We wish you would never leave, but every daughter marries away... You can cry and beg to come home, but you-and we- have no choice."

When Lily feels like she's had everything in life, Snow Flower had to experience so much bitterness in life. With such differences in both their lives, will their bond as laotong lasts?

This story tells a heartbreaking story of women's lives in the nineteenth century in China. Through Lily and Snow Flower, we see their suffering, their sacrifices, even the joy and sadness of life.

It took me quite a while to finish this book, but when i read the final pages, I realized how the story of Lily and Snow Flower had left a deep impression in my heart. I've heard quite a lot of foot-binding culture in China, but never got to know the meaning behind it. After reading this book, now I know how foot-binding could change a person's life totally; just like how Lily's life changed because of her beautifully bound feet.

The story is extremely deep with emotions which sometimes made it difficult for me to continue reading; because I kept imagining how they have to sustain through all the sufferings. In my opinion, the characters development in this story is very realistic and understandable. How Lily changed little by little, without her realizing, when she had higher social status. I also love how i gained so much knowledge about Chinese culture and old traditions from this book. This story also taught me so many things about life generally.

"We were at the mercy of powerful elements and could do nothing but follow our fates. This can be explained by yin and yang: There are women and men, dark and light, sorrow and happiness. These things create balance...
There is no life without death. This is the true meaning of yin and yang."

"She had been raised to be a fine lady and, as hungry as she was, she did not tear into the food as someone in my family might... Her restraint and control taught me a lesson I have not strayed from to this day. You may be desperate, but never let anyone see you as anything less than a cultivated woman.  

"...Everyone in our county envies your good luck. Everyone wishes you longevity and prosperity. But I see you breaking two hearts. It is so sad. I remember the little girl you were. You had nothing but a pretty pair of feet. Now you have abundance in your life, Lady Lu- an abundance of malice, ingratitude, and forgetfulness."

I will also schedule to watch the movie adaptation of this book soon :) Here's the trailer for those who haven't seen the movie yet ;) bye for now ! :)

5/5 stars


  1. jadi nama tokohnya memang Snow Flower, ya? aku pikir itu tadinya sebutan..

  2. Foot-binding?
    OMG... kaciaaaan >.<

    1. iya kyyy :"<
      di ceritanya gk cuma kasian pas foot-binding..
      sampe tua ttp kasian..


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