Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Article excerpt

FICTION Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. Random House, July 2005. $21.95

Written with the delicate precision of an ivory quill on rice paper, Lisa See's latest work, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, chronicles the friendship of two women physically and emotionally bound to Chinese tradition and to each other. Contracted at seven years of age to be lifelong confidantes, or laotongs, Lily and Snow Flower endure the excruciating pain of footbinding and awkward passage into adulthood together, etching their discoveries and disappointments onto the grainy surface of a fan in the secret women's language of nu shu. Destined, because of their sex, for lives of sacrifice and seclusion, nu shu gives flight to Lily and Snow Flower's most private desires and imaginings: "With her bold act, I realized the true purpose of our secret writing. It was not to compose girlish notes to each other or even to introduce us to the women in our husbands' families. …

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