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

This book depicts a story of a woman, Lady Lu, in the 17th century of China who rose from a farm girl to a respected, proud and perhaps feared woman in the village and her strong relationship with her Laotong (old saint) – Snow Flower.

Some of the Chinese traditions in this era and in this geographic was not familiar to me, such as not moving into the husband’s household until the wife has given birth, the Laotong kind of sworn sisterhood from the young tender age, butcher’s being a the bottom of the social standing, having a different language among women, and etc.

The novel went to tremendous details of foot binding for women. This is rude awakening for me. I didn’t know how much pain and suffering the old Chinese tradition, dominated by men, inflicted on the women. It’s definitely a bum deal to be born in that era. The details of the foot binding reminds me of my grandmother who had gone through the same ordeal. I always wondered how the feet came about. Now I know.

As in many young women’s mind, the “bed business” is both a curious and anxious subject before they get married. In the traditional Chinese culture, the “bed business” is a tool to make boys; girls were the “worthless” branches. Women’s body is nothing but a vehicle to procreate and prolong the family name for man. Very little did we know that there is we inherit as much genes from our mother’s as our father’s. It’s too bad that Chinese culture emphasize men more than women. I believe someday they’ll wake up and find that having an unbalanced society is not healthy. What’s going to happen to those horny Chinese men who can not find their mates. Crimes and other unhealthy habits come to mind.

As a father of a 6-year daughter, I feel tremendous relieved that my daughter was born in this era and this country. It’s insane and outrageous to consider women less than men. I will raise my daughter to be as capable and independent as men with a strong pride.

The main character, Lady Lu, is very proud, perhaps through her own circumstance and luck, and at time time very controlling. Sometimes, we seem to think we know more about how best to behave and give our friends the same advises, when in fact our friends just need some empathy from us, as in the case of Snow Flower. The best way to resolve the issues is to give our best friends the unconditional love and be a good listener. Try not to change them. And ultimately, we need to seek forgiveness and make amends as Lady Lu finally did for Snow Flower.

The relationship between Lady Lu and Snow Flowers is an unusual one even by today’s standard. Having a soul mate, matched at 6 years old, and grow up together until death is quite unbelievable. How many of us, even excluding men, actually have such kind of friends nowadays? Perhaps, it’s only possible in that era.

Overall, the story is mesmerizing from the beginning to the end. The narrator of the audio version of the book was especially lively, mimicking all the voices from the kid voice to that of old women. It’s like having the individual characters telling their own stories. Excellent book.