Friday, September 16, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)

There is so much to say about this book. But first, a synopsis. Back in rural China in the 1800s, the size of a woman's feet dictated so much: whom she could marry, whom she could befriend, what her status in society was. This is the story of a poor little girl with perfect tiny feet who rose up in society and a rich little girl who, for reasons out of her control, went down in society.

Overall, I found the book to be a little depressing. As in, I AM SO THANKFUL I WASN'T BORN IN RURAL CHINA IN THE 1800s BECAUSE IT SUCKED BACK THEN. Women had no freedom whatsoever, even to leave the house. They couldn't leave the house! Did you hear me? Trapped in their own homes, they were. To make matters even worse, no one wanted a woman in the house unless she would produce sons. Her birth family didn't want her since she was a daughter. And her married family didn't want her unless she could produce heirs. So women were essentially silent slaves in their own homes unless they were Lady of the House. And there was only one Lady at a time, so in their multi-generational/multi-family-branched homes, there were a lot of women who weren't the Ladies.

But See is a wonderful author with the ability to keep the story moving, and the premise of the book is absolutely fascinating. Everyone in my book club loved it, so there's that. I personally didn't, but as I said, I was in the minority. Fascinated but not in love. Yeah, that's how I feel.

However, I have a list of things I am freaked out about now:
-BEE STINGS. I won't tell you why, but I will tell you I carry benadryl with me. Everywhere.
-BOUND FEET. Little four year old girls had their feet bound. Four years old. Bound. Do you know what this entails? Basically, the toes are wrapped so that they are underneath the foot. Then the little girls walk like that, every day, for months until all the bones in their feet break. Then the feet are re-wrapped even tighter. The goal is to create feet to be 3 inches long. This is not an endearing part of Chinese history.
-TYPHOID. We are all immunized, right? Gah, what an awful disease.
-CHINA in general. I will not be traveling there. I know it's different now, but I can't shake the opinions I have of that 1800s culture. Also, I don't like their food. I like American Chinese food, but not the food that See writes about.

Speaking of food, we met at PF Changs to discuss the book. I am sure the waiter rolled his eyes at all of us women eating there with our big, obvious China books sitting beside us, but he was very gracious anyway. The manager even paid for my meal, so yeah, I'd say it was a good choice for us. (The manager is married to one of my former students, and I just love her. Hi, L, if you're reading!)

Our next book is Unbroken, and, yes, I know everyone else in the whole world has read this book. Anything I should know before diving in?


  1. I cried quite a few times while reading this book yet I couldn't put it down. Well, except when they were having their feet bound. I had to come back to that a few days later. Otherwise, I, like you, really enjoy the beautiful way Lisa See writes. Just a side note- I read a second Lisa See book called 'Shanghi Girls' which was by far even more depressing. I also went to see the movie during its 'limited release' and it was just not the same story. :(

  2. That sounds HORRIBLE!!!! I was going nuts the other day having not left my house for 1 and a half days! And, Izzy's feet are already double the size they "should" have been back in those times. Ugh... makes me feel ill :(

  3. I forgot to mention last night: I totally went out and bought a bottle of gummy vitamins after reading Unbroken. I am not getting beriberi. I am probably also not going to be getting any preventable diseases that result from malnutrition (see: extra 15 lbs.), but still. lol