Thursday, June 9, 2011

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I was told that if I liked Memoirs of a Geisha, then I could be sure that I'd like Snowflower and the Secret Fan.  I'd have to agree with this assessment.  I loved Memoirs of a Geisha because I learned a little bit about a culture that I was not at all familiar with.  The same is true for Snowflower.  Foot-binding anyone?

If you've read this book, then you know what I'm talking about!  I am SO glad that in our culture, women are not treated like they are in China (at least at the time period that the book was written - I have no idea if these same practices take place today).  In short, and this is by no means a direct quotation from the book, women are practically valued as nothing.  They exist as servants, as baby makers (you better have a boy!), and women are essentially used by men as a means of social status and as a way to secure their family's financial future.  But I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself here...

Lily is the storyteller of this novel that takes you all the way back to her childhood. She shares the story of her life and how she came to be known as Lady Lu, the 'queen bee' of the wealthiest family in her county.  Lily's family was not well off, and it was up to them to ensure that they took all the right steps to get Lily married off to the best family possible.  One way to help secure a decent marriage was to have the tiniest feet possible - enter foot-binding.  Lily's feet were bound (and I have to show pics here so you can see exactly what this is all about...)

The term was 'lily feet' - get them as small as you can get them!

Marriages could be arranged for you even before you became a teenage girl.  Auntie Wang, a marriage arranger, pays Lily a visit one day and finds that she has extraordinarily bound feet.  She decides to set Lily up with a laotang, meaning "Old Sames".  This is an extremely tight knit bond between women, and something that can also make you more desirable for marriage.  The laotang Auntie Wang chooses for Lily is Snowflower. 

Thus the story begins of two little girls who formed a stronger bond than even a man and wife could ever conceive of having in their county.  Snowflower is a story about friendship and the challenges all relationships face at various points throughout their history, including deceitfulness. This book will teach you a lesson about the importance of forgiveness and selflessness.

Have you read this?  What did you think?

Next up - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - in preparation for our summer vacation to Savannah, GA! 

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