Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Ah, vacation is over. I've enjoyed a blissful 12 days off in a row and must go back to work tomorrow - which promises complete and utter busy-ness. I want to post today about the book I finished last week, as the coming days may not allow. How wonderful is vacation, how sad it is to see it end.

Last week I finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Set in 19th-century China, this book is about two young girls who become "old sames," basically, through a matchmaking process that requires many life events to be in order, they become BFFs for life. The story takes us through the lives of Snow Flower and Lily, the narrator, as they get their feet bound (oh my, the horror, I can't even imagine), get promised to different men, marry, have children, live through an uprising, and suffer a misunderstanding.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, with beautiful imagery. And like with any historical fiction, I like learning about a different culture. I remember learning about this era in Chinese history in college, but most of the facts escape me now. As The Last Chinese Chef brought me bits of 20th-century China, this book brought bits of the previous 100 years.

Like with many paperbacks these days, this book came with "study questions" in the back. Even though I'm not part of a book club - outside this blog - I do like to look at the questions and see how I would answer them. One of the questions talked of Lily being ungrateful, mean, evil, etc., and I was just shocked. Sure, there were misunderstandings between the old sames, but there are misunderstandings between best friends all the time. It's the strength of your friendship that gets you through, that helps you forgive or beg for forgiveness, and just because you both suffer a situation like the one described in the book, that doesn't make one or the other of you bad. So, no, I don't think Lily was wrong or unkind in any way. I think this was a lovely story about friendship - female friendship. How it's different than your relationship with your husband, boyfriend or significant other. How important and how necessary it is. No matter what time in history.


Sarah said...

Ha, my two friends, who are cousins, just got Old Same tattoos. They were born in the same year and are the closest of friends.

I liked this book although our book club decided there was no real meatiness to it. My friend just told me she really enjoyed See's Peony in Love. She said it talks of their beliefs in the afterlife. Sounds interesting...

CMS said...

I have this book but haven't been very inspired to read it. After reading your post, I think I should give it a chance.