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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.
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About the Author

Lisa See is the author of 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.To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women-here between Lily and Snow Flower-that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. Author tour. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Foot binding; nu shu, a secret language used exclusively by the women of Hunan Province for 1000 years; and laotong, the arranged friendship between little girls meant to last a lifetime, provide the framework for See's (Dragon Bones) riveting look at a little-known chapter in 19th-century Chinese history. In 1903, 80-year-old Lily looks back on her life, which was anchored by her laotong relationship with the beautiful Snow Flower. As little girls, the two communicated in nu shu, writing of their mutual devotion on a fan they passed between each other over the years. Raised according to the traditional restrictions of the times, they lived most of their lives confined to the upstairs women's chamber in their homes, enduring the relentless societal insistence that women are worthless except for their value in producing sons. The laotong bonds of Lily and Snow Flower endure through family tragedies, a typhoid-fever epidemic, and the Taiping Rebellion of 1851-64, but it is a misunderstood message in nu shu, the language that held them together for decades, that ultimately tears them apart. See's meticulous research and exquisite language deliver a story that is haunting, powerful, and, at times, almost too painful to bear. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/05.]-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Lily at 80 reflects on her life, beginning with her "daughter days" in 19th-century rural China. Foot-binding was practiced by all but the poorest families, and the graphic descriptions of it are not for the fainthearted. Yet women had nu shu, their own secret language. At the instigation of a matchmaker, Lily and Snow Flower, a girl from a larger town and supposedly from a well-connected, wealthy family, become laotong, bound together for life. Even after Lily learns that Snow Flower is not from a better family, even when Lily marries above her and Snow Flower beneath her, they remain close, exchanging nu shu written on a fan. When war comes, Lily is separated from her husband and children. She survives the winter helped by Snow Flower's husband, a lowly butcher, until she is reunited with her family. As the years pass, the women's relationship changes; Lily grows more powerful in her community, bitter, and harder, until at last she breaks her bond with Snow Flower. They are not reunited until Lily tries to make the dying Snow Flower's last days comfortable. Their friendship, and this tale, illustrates the most profound of human emotions: love and hate, self-absorption and devotion, pride and humility, to name just a few. Even though the women's culture and upbringing may be vastly different from readers' own, the life lessons are much the same, and they will be remembered long after the details of this fascinating story are forgotten.-Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Powerfully alive, unfolding like a waking dream, haunting, magical, and absolutely impossible to forget."-The Boston Globe "Both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly lovely . . . immerses the reader in an unimagined world . . . The characters and their surroundings come vibrantly alive."-The Denver Post "A provocative and affecting portrait."-Chicago Tribune "A marvel of imagination . . . so mesmerizing the pages float away and the story remains clearly before us from beginning to end."-Amy Tan, author of Saving Fish from Drowning "Riveting . . . a story that informs as it charms."-The San Diego Union-Tribune "Extraordinary . . . breathtaking."-Baltimore Sun "Magical, haunting fiction. Beautiful."-Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace "[See's] best book yet . . . a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power."-The Seattle Times "An engrossing and completely convincing portrayal of a woman shaped by suffering forced upon her from her earliest years, and of the friendship that helps her to survive."-Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha Powerfully alive, unfolding like a waking dream, haunting, magical, and absolutely impossible to forget. The Boston Globe Both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly lovely . . . immerses the reader in an unimagined world . . . The characters and their surroundings come vibrantly alive. The Denver Post A provocative and affecting portrait. Chicago Tribune A marvel of imagination . . . so mesmerizing the pages float away and the story remains clearly before us from beginning to end. Amy Tan, author of Saving Fish from Drowning Riveting . . . a story that informs as it charms. The San Diego Union-Tribune Extraordinary . . . breathtaking. Baltimore Sun Magical, haunting fiction. Beautiful. Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace [See s] best book yet . . . a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power. The Seattle Times An engrossing and completely convincing portrayal of a woman shaped by suffering forced upon her from her earliest years, and of the friendship that helps her to survive. Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha" " Powerfully alive, unfolding like a waking dream, haunting, magical, and absolutely impossible to forget." "- The Boston Globe" " Both heartbreaking and heartbreakingly lovely . . . immerses the reader in an unimagined world . . . The characters and their surroundings come vibrantly alive." - The Denver Post " A provocative and affecting portrait." - Chicago Tribune " A marvel of imagination . . . so mesmerizing the pages float away and the story remains clearly before us from beginning to end." - Amy Tan, author of Saving Fish from Drowning " Riveting . . . a story that informs as it charms." - The San Diego Union-Tribune " Extraordinary . . . breathtaking." - Baltimore Sun " Magical, haunting fiction. Beautiful." - Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Fifth Book of Peace " [See' s] best book yet . . . a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power." - The Seattle Times " An engrossing and completely convincing portrayal of a woman shaped by suffering forced upon her from her earliest years, and of the friendship that helps her to survive." - Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

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