My name is Lily. I came into this world on the fifth day of the six month of the third year of Emperor Daoguang’s reign. Puwei, my home village, is in Yongming County, the county of Everlasting Brightness. Most people who live here are descended from the Yao ethnic tribe. From the storytellers who visited Puwei when I was a girl, I learned that the Yao first arrived in this area twelve hundred years ago during the Tang dynasty, but most families came a century later, when they fled the Mongol armies who invaded the north. Although the people of our region have never been rich, we have rarely been so poor that women had to work in the fields. We were members of the Yi family line, one of the original Yao clans and the most common in the district. My father and uncle leased seven mou of land from a rich landowner who lived in the far west of the province. They cultivated that land with rice, cotton, taro, and kitchen crops. My family home was typical in the sense that it had two stories and faced south. A room upstairs was designated for women’s gathering and for unmarried girls to sleep. Rooms for each family unit and a special room for our animals flanked the downstairs main room, where baskets filled with eggs or oranges and strings of drying chilies hung from the central beam to keep them safe from mice, chickens, or a roaming pig. We had a table and stools against one wall. A hearth where Mama and Aunt did the cooking occupied a corner on the opposite wall. We did not have windows in our main room, so we kept open the door to the alley outside our house for light and air in the warm months. The rest of our rooms were small, our floor was hard-packed earth, and, as I said, our animals lived with us. I’ve never thought much about whether I was happy or if I had fun as a child. I was a so-so girl who lived with a so-so family in a so-so village. I didn’t know that there might be another way to live, and I didn’t worry about it either. But I remember the day I began to notice and think about what was around me. I had just turned five and felt as though I had crossed a big threshold. I woke up before dawn with something like a tickle in my brain. That bit of irritation made me alert to everything I saw and experienced that day. I lay between Elder Sister and Third Sister. I glanced across the room to my cousin’s bed. Beautiful Moon, who was my age, hadn’t woken up yet, so I stayed still, waiting for my sisters to stir. I faced Elder Sister, who was four years older than I. Although we slept in the same bed, I didn’t get to know her well until I had my feet bound and joined the women’s chamber myself.
Excerpted from Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See Copyright © 2005 by Lisa See. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The inspiration for the film of the same name, See’s moving novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship. With the rich setting of 19th-century rural China as a backdrop, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells the story of two girls, Lily and Snow Flower, who are paired in an ancient ceremony more sacred than marriage.
Though separated by social standing and distance through their lifetimes, the two correspond in nu shu, a phonetic code that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret. However, their friendship might not be able to withstand a simple misunderstanding that threatens to tear their bond apart. Poignant, suspenseful and revealing, this book is a marvel of imagination.
Softcover Book : 240 pages
Publisher: Random House Inc. ( June 28, 2005 )
Item #: 12-411956
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.61inches
Product Weight: 9.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Set in a culture I had little to no knowledge of...this is an amazing story. Lisa tells it in such detail, that you find yourself swept away and in the story. It was like taking a trip back in time. I is a true example of how true friends can save each other. I loved it! The follow up is also very good.
What an excellent story. This is not the type of book I would typically read, as I like suspense thrillers, but a friend recommended it, and I am pleased to say that it was a fantastic story!!!
I borrowed it from a friend and read it over the weekend. I had to buy it here because I want to read again. This is the type of book that stays with you for a long long time. You should read "Peony in Love" also by Lisa See. She is great! Enjoy
Reviewer: Niurka P
Although set in a totally different culture and time period, as I read the story of the Secret Fan, I could not help but think about what my mother taught me about being a wife and mother both in word and deed. It also made me reflect on what I must have taught my daughter. Not everything was necessarily healthy. This book was informative and interesting, but as Lilly would have it, I remained detached from the main character. Only at the end of our life can really know the true worth of how we lived it.
Reviewer: Susie D
A compelling and sad story of a long life. Lots of great cultural details reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha. I highly recommend this book to women, sisters, girlfriends and mothers. I'm going to read more from Lisa See.
Reviewer: Nicole A