Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

Lisa See

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0812980352

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a captivating journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. Now in a deluxe paperback edition complete with an expanded Random House Reader’s Circle guide and an exclusive conversation between Lisa See and her mother, fellow writer Carolyn See, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel is, as the Seattle Times says, “a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power.”











Madame Wang reminded my mother, “but we both know that a very important one was not. Snow Flower has come to a family that is below her.” Madame Wang paused, then added, “I did not hear you complain of this when I first approached you.” “Yes, but—” “You clearly don’t understand the way things are,” Madame Wang continued indignantly. “I told you from the beginning that I hoped to find a match for Lily in Tongkou, but a marriage could never happen there if a potential bridegroom happened to

happen to you. I couldn’t believe that Snow Flower had beaten me. I was the one with the higher status. I should have gotten pregnant first. So deep was my humiliation that I didn’t tell Mama or Aunt the good news. I knew how they would react. Mama would criticize me, while Aunt would be too joyous on Snow Flower’s behalf. The next time I visited my husband and we did bed business, I wrapped my legs around his and held him on top of me with my arms until he was done. I held him for so long

Mine spoke of the blessings of a son, how he would carry on the Lu line and cherish his ancestors. I ended with, Goddess, your goodness graces us. So many come to you to beg for sons, but I hope you will hear my plea. Please grant my desire. That had seemed appropriate when I had written it, but now I imagined what Snow Flower had done with her fan. It had to be filled with lovely words and memorable decorations. I prayed that the goddess would not be too swayed by Snow Flower’s offering. “Please

the outer realm of literature, accounts, and crop yields; women write about the inner realm of children, daily chores, and emotions. The men in the Lu household were proud of their wives’ fluency in nu shu and dexterity in embroidery, though these things had as much importance to survival as a pig’s fart. Since the men deemed our writing insignificant, they paid no attention to the letters I wrote or received. My mother-in-law was another story. I had to skirt the edges of her awareness. For now

chrysanthemum embroidery for three solid months. Not only was it filthy and torn, but looking at myself in the mirror as water heated so I could bathe, I saw three months of living in the mud and snow under an unforgiving sun at high altitude upon my face. I had time to wash only those places that he would see or smell first—my hands, arms, face, neck, armpits, and that place between my legs. Snow Flower did the best she could with my hair, pinning the grimy matted mass into a bun and then

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