My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I always thought teachers were exaggerating when they described how outrageously tiny foot binding made women’s feet. After reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, I’ve reconsidered. The book centers on the friendship between two girls, Lilly and Snow Flower, in China during the 1800s. The two were partnered from a young age as laotong, a Chinese tradition in which two girls are declared each other’s friend for life, or “old same”. Together, they endure life’s difficulties, their friendship getting bumped, bruised and mangled in the process. Lisa See’s descriptions of their everyday horrors were compelling, if a little disturbing at times. We are told that “Seven centimeters- about the length of a thumb- is the ideal” (26) length of feet. To think that something that is ordinarily more than 20 centimeters can be reduced to almost one third of its size using bandages is extraordinarily creepy. Facing war, disease, and verbally abusive in-laws, the two girls maintain communication on an elegant fan, writing in nu shu, a language invented by Chinese women to communicate without the knowledge of men. Unfortunately for Lilly, these characters are easy to misinterpret, leading to misunderstanding and heartbreak. The troubles that both girls go through, both emotionally and physically, over the course of the novel leave the reader both fascinated and appalled at the same time. In addition to the riveting events of the story, Lisa See writes with such a smooth voice that it’s impossible not to enjoy reading the book.–Student: Audrey H.