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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Cover

ISBN13: 9780812968064
ISBN10: 0812968069
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. In your opinion, is Lily, who is the narrator, the heroine or the villain? What are her flaws and her strengths?

2. Do you think the concept of “old sames” exists today? Do you have an “old same,” or are you part of a sworn sisterhood? In what ways are those relationships similar or different from the ones in nineteenth-century China?

3. Some men in nineteenth-century China apparently knew about nu shu, the secret womens writing described in Snow Flower. Why do you think they tolerated such private communication?

4. Lily writes her story so that Snow Flower can read it in the afterworld. Do you think she tells her story in a convincing way so that Snow Flower can forgive and understand? Do you think Snow Flower would have told the story differently?

5. When Lily and Snow Flower are girls, they have one intimate-almost erotic-moment together Do you think their relationship was sexual or, given the times, were they simply girls who saw this only as an innocent extension of their friendship?

6. Having a wife with bound feet was a status symbol for men, and, consequently, having bound feet increased a womans chances of marriage into a wealthier household. Women took great pride in their feet, which were considered not only beautiful but also their best and most important feature. As a child, would you have fought against having your feet bound, as Third Sister did, knowing you would be consigned to the life of a servant or a “little daughter-in-law”? As a mother, would you have chosen to bind your daughters feet?

7. The Chinese character for “mother love” consists of two parts: one meaning “pain,” the other meaning “love.” In your own experience, from the perspective of a mother or a daughter, is there an element of truth to this description of mother love?

8. The author sees Snow Flower and the Secret Fan as a novel about love and regret, but do you think theres also an element of atonement in it as well?

9. In the story, we are told again and again that women are weak and worthless. But were they really? In what ways did Lily and Snow Flower show their strength and value?

10. Although the story takes place in the nineteenth century and seems very far removed from our lives-we dont have our feet bound, were free and mobile-do you think were still bound up in other ways; for instance, by career, family obligations, conventions of feminine beauty, or events beyond our control such as war, the economy, and natural disasters?

11. Because of its phonetic nature, nu shu could easily be taken out of context and be misunderstood. Today, many of us communicate though e-mail or instant-messaging. Have you ever had an experience where one of your messages has been misunderstood because of lack of context, facial or body gestures, and tone of voice? Or have you ever been on the receiving end of a message that you misinterpreted and your feelings were hurt?

12. Madame Wang, the matchmaker, is a foot-bound woman and yet she does business with men. How is she different from the other women in the story? Do you think she is considered a woman of status or is she merely a necessary evil?

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Average customer rating based on 12 comments:

canyonfossil, November 8, 2012 (view all comments by canyonfossil)
Lily and Snow Flower are Chinese girls whose parents bind their feet to make them more marriageable. Far from being child abuse, this is a highly desirable action and keenly anticipated by the girls themselves, because it represents their own chance to improve their station in life through a better marriage. Lily is fortunate in her marriage, but Snow Flower's life is not as she expected. A story of friendship in another culture and another time.

The descriptions of the binding and the ramifications thereof sent me scrambling for research on this custom. Unbelievable, but women today undergo surgery to make their feet fit pointed shoes, so have we really moved on?
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Marla Mazalan, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Marla Mazalan)
Well written and researched story of friendship, misunderstanding and the different paths life can take set in 19th century China. Interesting to read about the culture of foot binding from the character's perspective.
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Jill K Porco, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Jill K Porco)
By far the best book I read in 2011 even though it was written earlier...
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Product Details

See, Lisa
Random House Trade
Historical - General
Married women
Domestic fiction
Psychological fiction
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
china;fiction;historical fiction;friendship;women;footbinding;novel;historical;19th century;family;female friendship;history;marriage;nu shu;asia;asian;relationships;culture;literature;chinese culture;love;secret language;arranged marriage;contemporary;ad
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
12 x 9 x 5 in 9.74 lb

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Used Trade Paper
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Product details 288 pages Vintage - English 9780812968064 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Magical, haunting fiction. Beautiful."
"Review" by , "Lisa See...has conquered a new genre — the historical novel — with passion and grit....While the novel's plot, characters and pacing are all exceptional, the true success of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan lies in its cultural relativism."
"Review" by , "See's translucent prose style gleams with the beauty of 19th century Chinese culture but also makes us burn with indignation at its sexist ugliness and injustice."
"Review" by , "[A] triumph on every level, a beautiful, heartbreaking story."
"Review" by , "A marvel of imagination . . . so mesmerizing the pages float away and the story remains clearly before us from beginning to end."
"Review" by , "A provocative and affecting portrait."
"Review" by , "Extraordinary . . . breathtaking."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “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 shes painted 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 fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared 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 deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
"Synopsis" by , Set in 19th-century China, See's national bestseller tells a story of two young women who find solace with each other, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart. High school & older.
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