New Book – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

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Publishing year: 2005

I started this book this afternoon and I’m already hooked.

Lily is an eighty-year-old Chinese widow, she’s the narrator as she tells us her story. This story takes place in the nineteenth century and Lily’s memories start when she’s five. We get to learn about the hierarchy in her household. Girls were only an instrument to make their parents better themselves through marriage. The most important people in Lily’s family are her father and her grandmother. Lily longs for love and wants to have her mother’s attention, but her mother’s interest is only in her elder brother, her father, and her grandmother.

When she and her cousin Beautiful Moon are six, it is time for their feet to be bound, and her mother and aunt call the diviner. When this man sees Lily, he thinks that there’s something different in her, and when he and the matchmaker come another day, the matchmaker says Lily is special, and she could have a very good match as her feet could become perfect. Both the matchmaker and the diviner think that she should have her feet bound within a year because Lily is small for her age, so it is agreed that Lily, her cousin, and her younger sister will have her bindings together.

A year later we witness the process of women having her feet bound. I was shocked!!! I didn’t know that was so horrible and cruel. A girl’s toes should be tied so that her toes and heels could meet in a circle, and these girls were forced to walk every day. My goodness!!! So painful. It’s difficult to judge these customs from my position, but I guess that these older women wanted the best for her daughters, which was a good marriage, so this is a sacrifice that they knew the girls had to make. Lily and Beautiful Moon put up with the pain the best they could, but Lily’s sister is truculent, screaming bloody murder, and who can blame her??? The end of this part is very sad as this little girl, Lily’s sister, gets an infection… I imagine it’s gangrene, and she ends up dying. My goodness!!! Dying that way!!! What a waste!!! How could mothers risk their daughters like that? I can’t believe that women didn’t love their daughters as Lily believes. Maybe women were considered a lesser category than men, but it’s hard for me to believe that a mother could disregard her daughters just because they were girls.

So interesting a book!!! Very sad and shocking, but fascinating!

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2 thoughts on “New Book – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

  1. Hi Mercy, yes I already know what was done to young Chinese female children and what consequences could have. It’s difficult for us to understand why the women accepted this cruel practice and the disgregard they have for their daughters. Probably it’s because they grew up in a culture that considered them less than the men and that instilled in them that their worthiness depended only on their capability to generate a son, therefore I can understand why they despised their female daughters. Up to not so many ago this was still true in China where was allowed only one child and parents preferred to abort if they discovered they were expecting a daughter. In the rural, backward regions of India, a law that forbidden medics to reveal the sex of the unborn child had to be proclaimed, because of the problem of the selective abortion.
    In many other countries of the world women still are considered less important than the men, it’s sad but true.

    • Yes, it is truly sad. The thing that shocked me most in the book was the custom of feet-binding. I knew small feet used to be a trait of beauty in old China, and I had heard of feet-binding, but I didn’t know how terrible that was, and how some girls died of severe infection. And then I saw some pictures of bound feet, and they were horrible. They weren’t nice at all, but totally deformed!!!

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