Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Book Review

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.

Walking through the library some many, many weeks ago, I noticed a display of books. Each book was propped on a stand with a card sticking out of the top. I had to investigate.

Each card sticking out of each displayed book was a recommendation from a specific librarian.

This was a display full of recommended books. Favorites.

That sounds like a good place to get ideas for what to read next. Except that I almost never need more ideas. I usually have too many books to read. I usually have to take books back before I find the time to read them.

This time was no different. Except that I picked up this book. Even when I had more than enough to read already. Even though I didn't know when I would get to it.

But it looked exotic sitting on that recommendation table at the library.

I had to get it. And I didn't regret it.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

This is the closest I may ever come to teleportation. This book transports you to the highly-restricted life of women in China in the nineteenth century. Stop thinking like the smart-phone-toting, internet-addicted, social-media hound that you are and let yourself be transported.

To another world. Another time. Another life.

Lily is a girl/daughter/woman/wife/daughter-in-law/mother in the Hunan province of nineteenth century China. We are transported to her world, where things are very different. Social expectations. Livelihood. Traditions. Relationships.

Lily is matched with a girl, Snow Flower, of the same age for lifelong companionship. This is a relationship that is closer than a married couple's. It is intended for emotional support, since marriages are arranged and intended for the purpose of creating sons.

Marriages are for creating sons. That's it. Sons and only sons.

Through foot binding, family deaths, their own experiences of being treated as property, obeying mothers-in-laws, and surviving violent revolution, these companions experience the joys and hardships of the time and place through many years together as friends.

Their joys are not your joys. Their hardships are not your hardships. Their friendship is not your friendship.

Their world is one of very different views on many things. This is a different world.

This is a world I do not know. This made for an incredibly interesting, yet moderately disturbing, read. The author has done her own research, traveling to remote locations in China to talk with village matriarchs and learn this history. The presentation here is striking in its detachment from modern times.

Detach yourself and be transported. You won't be sorry.

But I predict you will be glad to be back here when you are done.

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