What I'm listening to: "Gotta Get Thru This" by Daniel Bedingfield
I actually read another book written for people over 18! *Gasp* I know, shocking. So I thought I'd review it. Plus, it made a real impression on me (and you'll see why).
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See, is the life story of two girls in 19th century China.
From the jacket:
Lily is haunted by memories – of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness. In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu ("women's writing"). Some girls were paired with laotongs, "old sames," in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become "old sames" at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, 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 lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
The story begins with Lily as an old woman, who has lived far longer than she ever thought she would, and has watched most of her loved ones pass on without her. Although she may regret many things, she regrets the most how the relationship with her "old same," Snow Flower, went bad. The writing was good and the character development was well done. It's not a fast paced book at all, and while there's some excitement when rebels roam the countryside, the book mostly flows along at the same pace. The vivid culture description is what makes this book really worthwhile. And before I go on, yes, I would recommend the book.
You can find out more about Lisa See on her website.
Although Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is mostly about relationships--which is what many reviews lauded--what impacted me the most was look into 19th century Chinese culture. I've heard of Chinese foot binding, but I guess what I had in mind was that they just bound their feet so they could fit them in smaller shoes. I didn't realize they actually broke the bones of the feet! They bind the foot and then make the girls walk back and forth until the bones break. In one passage I had to put the book down because I was literally sick to my stomach.
And I found some incredible pictures that I just have to share. These were on an amazing website, and the next paragraph and following pictures are from that site.
"Zhou Guizhen who is 86 years old, shows one of her bound feet where the bones in the four small toes were broken and forced underneath the foot over a period of time, at her home in Liuyi village in China’s southern Yunnan Province, 23 February 2007. According to popular Chinese legend the custom was at first adopted among courtesans after a Tang Dynasty emperor about 1000 years ago fell in love with a concubine who wrapped her tiny feet in silk when she danced and the practice soon entrenched itself in the lower classes. It became the ultimate measure of a woman’s beauty and also a condition of marriage and part of bedside repertoire. To mold the so-called “lotus foot” girls’ feet were wrapped at about six years of age, an agonisingly painful process that would break the bones. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images"