Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)

83%

20 Critic Reviews

A keenly imagined journey into the women’s quarters.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Peony in Love.

Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.
 

About Lisa See

See more books from this Author
Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published June 28, 2005 by Random House. 288 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Young Adult, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
All: 20 | Positive: 19 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on Apr 15 2005

A keenly imagined journey into the women’s quarters.

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Examiner

Good
on Mar 07 2012

...See’s perspective on female relationships remains on target and relatable throughout the entire story.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Yumin Ye on Feb 19 2012

If you're a girl who enjoys girl talk, you will enjoy Lily and Snow Flower's adventure in this historical fiction piece...

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Booklist Online

Good

Teens will be drawn in by the complex friendship between Lily and Snow Flower.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Susan Kelly on Jul 13 2006

If there is a sleeper summer hit, it should be this story, which draws you into a time not as ancient as it seems, touching your heart and breaking it at the same time.

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Pajiba

Good
Reviewed by Rachie3879 on Nov 12 2013

Yes this novel is fiction, but my experience with See’s writing indicates she does quite a bit of research out of respect for her Chinese heritage, so I was eager to delve into another of See’s novels...Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is definitely a thought-provoking read for any woman...

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Siobhan O'Leary on Jul 01 2005

See explicitly depicts the horrors of foot-binding and the grand ceremony with which relationships are cemented. The journey of the two girls...is cinematic in scope and touching in execution...See offers delicate insight into the private world of women whose lives are in so many ways an object of public display.

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BellaOnline

Good
Reviewed by Caroline Baker on Jun 19 2015

It is rare these days that I have the opportunity to read a book and simply enjoy the act of reading...That is why I was so impressed with Lisa See’s latest novel...Her beautifully woven story took me on a journey and introduced me to such rich characters that I foregone my normal reading habits to simply enjoy the story.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Jessica on Jan 02 2008

...Snow Flower is a literary triumph....

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http://skrishnasbooks.com

Good
Reviewed by Swapna Krishna on Dec 26 2009

I was really amazed by Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Lisa See does a wonderful job making the reader feel like they are in 19th century China. There are so many historical details; the intricacies of the story are just incredible...all I can say is that it’s an incredibly vivid and well-written novel.

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Literate Housewife

Excellent
Reviewed by Jennifer on Apr 18 2007

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is an amazing book about the lives of women in 16th century China...I enjoyed every moment reading this book. I hated to put it down....I would highly recommend this book. Very few bring tears to my eyes at any point. As I read the last sections, I had to wipe my eyes to see what I was reading.

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Rebecca Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Rebecca Reid on Sep 25 2009

Although I enjoyed learning about the culture and traditions, the novel did very little for me emotionally. I disliked Lily from her childhood, and I found few other characters to draw me in to the novel...Nevertheless, despite my lukewarm reaction to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I am glad that I read it.

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She Treads Softly Blog

Good
Reviewed by Lori L on Jul 29 2008

I was totally transported back in time by this book and very highly recommend it. Although a case could be made that the inclusion of many more diverse and historically accurate details in a larger book would have made it perfect, I am still satisfied with the direction See chose to take and the details she chose to focus on.

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She Reads Novels

Above average
Reviewed by Helen on Jul 13 2010

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells the story of the lifelong friendship between Lily and her ‘old same’ Snow Flower...While I wouldn’t say I loved this book, I did enjoy learning about a culture so completely different to my own and I would welcome any suggestions for more historical fiction novels set in China.

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Helen's Book Blog

Good
Reviewed by Helen on Sep 10 2010

I found the history and the culture of this book fascinating...The author did a great job at setting the scene, making me care about the characters, and combining history, culture, and literature...I did find the relationship between Snow Flower and Lily interesting; how two women's lives were so intertwined and reliant on one another.

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MyShelf.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson on Jul 15 2014

Snow Flower is heavy on telling because the story necessitates it; it works because it is told in first person so the reader has a sense that the narrative is spoken. It also works because the setting and culture are so fascinating that we are most happy to sit still in large enough chunks to absorb all this mystery, culture...

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http://www.booklore.co.uk

Good
Reviewed by Nadine on Aug 23 2006

This book certainly instils a sense of gratitude for our privileged lifestyle. Be warned though – it’s a tearjerker. Not one to read in public if you have a tendency to blub, like I do! Despite that, it’s delightful.

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A Striped Armchair

Good
Reviewed by Eva on Oct 28 2007

Mostly, I loved it for the vivid details that let me really envision a time and place that I knew nothing about beforehand. I learned about sewing silk shoes, about foot-binding, about the elaborate courtship and marriages...If you don’t mind a book whose richness is in the setting more than the plot or even characters, pick this one up!

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Tales Untangled

Above average
Reviewed by Michelle on Aug 20 2012

In a time of isolation for women we gain insight into this unique time and place in the outer provinces of China...I found Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to be compelling, sad and beautiful. As historical fiction much of the book felt authentic...

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Any Excuse to Write...

Excellent
Reviewed by Any Excuse to Write on Aug 19 2012

A touching, sad and brave tale of how women’s lives in nineteenth Century China was. Unwanted, useless, and born to serve others, put through torturous procedures like foot-binding, all to make a good marriage...It is a must-read. I would definitely recommend this book.

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87%

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Rebecca Kilbane

Rebecca Kilbane 5 Sep 2013

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