Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

My mother bought this book for my daughter two years ago. My daughter has never bothered to read it since it lacks vampires (sighs) so I read it instead.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is an utterly beautiful book about the relationship of two women in 19th century China. It is the story of the friendship between Lily and her laotong Snow Flower. I had never heard this term before but Lily’s aunt defines it as “made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose – to have sons.” I can’t decide if the acknowledgment that women’s emotional needs are worth consideration and are, therefore, encouraged formally makes me sad or relieved.

The relationship between Lily and Snow Flower is not a healthy one. The two women are very different and Lily’s insecurities all but destroy Snow Flower. Their friendship should have saved them, and it does maintain them through their footbinding as children, but both suffer dreadfully throughout their lives. Snow Flower’s husband is violently abusive, whilst Lily, who ‘marries well’ remains deeply unhappy and hurts those she loves the most.

In many ways, the book is about the power of women’s friendship and the trauma when it is torn asunder. Despite this particular friendship being destroyed by jealousy, it is the thought of the friendship which sustains both women through civil war, VAW, marriage, childbirth and infant loss.

It is a young adult fiction book but I enjoyed it very much.

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