Monday, February 13, 2006

Snowflower and the Secret Fan

Again. I am so happy my friends have great taste in books. Fabulous recommendation.

A heartbreaking and eye opening read about China, footbinding, nu shu, and the laotong relationship.

This is an example of a book where fact meets fiction so seemlessly that the characters seem real, and China is painted so vividly infront of the reader, that I almost experienced sensory overload.

Lily knows that as a girl in her family she is a "useless branch" destined to marry out. Her family is not so poor that the women have to work in the fields, so she is to have her feet bound along with her cousin Beautiful Moon. Her mother seeks the diviner to come and examine Lily to find the most auspicious day to begin the binding, but to everyone's surprise, the diviner wants to bring in some extra help. Madame Wang is a matchmaker from a different town, and announces that Lily should have a laotong relationship with another girl named Snowflower. Lily's mother is upset that this means that more resources will be taken out of her home, but is scheming enough to realize that this means that Lily could marry up when she marries out, ultimately bringing more money to her natal family.

The women in the household are relegated to the upstairs chamber once their footbinding begins. Terrible pain, the breaking of bones and deathly infection are all in the future. But so is the learning of nu shu, the secret writing of women. Lily's aunt lovingly teaches the girls the characters and didactic stories that go along with them.

The plot spans Lily's lifetime and is rich and somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. It is achingly beautiful and terrible at the same time.

My uncle is a professor of Chinese History, and this book has definately made me want to get in touch with him and learn some more. I will be recommending this specifically to my women friends. I also will be reading more of Lisa See's work.

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