Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Author: Lisa See

Context: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005) is a historical fiction novel by Lisa See, set in China in the 1800s. All through revolution and famine as the years pass, the ‘laotongs’, ‘old sames’ reflect upon their loneliness, the agonies of being footbound, their arranged marriages, sorrows and joys of motherhood. The bond they develop between them not only helps in keeping their spirits alive but they also find solace. However, suddenly their lifelong friendship threatens to tear apart, when a misunderstanding comes up.

Synopsis: In China during nineteenth century, wives and daughters were lived in complete seclusion and were kept foot-bound. In one faraway county, the women came up with nu shu (woman’s writing) a secret code for communicating with each other. A young seven year old girl named Lily is paired with an ‘old same’ laotong (Snow Flower). As part of introducing herself, Snow Flower paints a poem in the unique nu shu language on a silk fan and communicates in secrete. The girls are kept away from the influence of men.

The young girls were paired with ‘old sames’, laotongs and were matched together as kindred sisters for eternity. This emotional bonding with each other lasted all through their lives. Accordingly both Snow Flower and Lily send embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, composed stories and painted letters on fans in an effort to reach out to each other during their isolation years. The young laotongs did this to share their accomplishments, desires and dreams with the others.

Other works by the Author:

1995 – On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese American Family

1997 – Flower Net

1999 – The Interior

2003 – Dragon Bones

2007 – Peony in Love

2009 – Shanghai Girls

2011 – Dreams of Joy

2014 – China Dolls

2017 – The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

2019 – The Island of Sea Women


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