I read this book a few months ago. Whilst I was initially quite sceptical as to whether or not I would enjoy this, I have an intrest in Chinese culture so thought I would give it a go.
Set in nineteenth century rural China, the story opens with Lilly, a widow, reflecting upon the last eighty years of her life. We are then taken back to when Lilly was a child, living in Puwei village with her family, including her two sisters and cousin, Beautiful Moon. The first Part of the book tells of this early childhood and in particular of footbinding, the process by which girls feet are bound for a number of years in bandages with the aim of achieving the ‘perfect’ lotus bud shaped feet.
“…my goal was to achieve a pair of perfectly bound feet with seven distinct attributes: They should be small, narrow, stright, pointed and arched, yet still fragrant and soft in texture. Of these requirements, length is most important. Seven centimeters – about the length of a thumb – is the ideal.”
It is Lilly’s footbinding that ultimatly defines her life, for it is thier feet that dictates a women’s marriageability. As well as being matched with a husband, Lilly is matched with a Laotong, a lifelong ‘old same’. It is around the relationship between lilly and her laotong, Snow Flower, that the story revolves. The thoughts of the two girls and later the two women, are recorded on a fan; reflecting the tremendous joy and grief that Lilly’s life tells.
I would reccomend ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan’ by Lisa See to anyone who wants an insight into the history of this period in China, or someone just looking for something a bit different.