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Snow Flower and The Secret Fan: Rice and Salt Days and Sitting Quietly April 23, 2007

Posted by Han in Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See.
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This completes the last chapters for Snow Flower and will include final wrap up. What are your thoughts?

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Couple questions to think about

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

The story takes place in the nineteenth century and seems very far removed from out lives–for instance, we don’t have our feet bound and we’re free and mobile. Do you think we’re still bound up in other ways: by career, by family obligations, by conventions of feminine beauty, or even by events beyond our control (war, the economy, and natural disasters)?

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

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Comments»

1. bethany3boys - April 25, 2007

WOW!!! I am going to go back when I have time this week and put my thoughts on the questions but I REALLY LIKED this book. The ending and wrap up were great. What a great book about relationships and friendships and the little things we let destroy those….basically at the root of it is communication problems. I really felt after reading this the need when I am offended to go to that person and communicate how I feel one on one before assuming the worst and letting bitterness come in. When it is all said and done relationships and those we love are the most important things we have….everything else doesn’t matter.

2. Michelle - April 26, 2007

Woah! What a powerfully loaded book. I saw so much of myself in Lily. To see how quickly she flipped from emotion to reaction to emotion after she read the note on the fan. That is how it happens in real life- fast and messy. Pain, Criticize the other person (I’m right, you’re wrong), Suppress your feelings (I don’t care), Protect you heart (It doesn’t matter), Betrayal, Hatred. It was a good reminder to me that this is the path our heart naturally wants to take, but if we are aware, and pray, God can help us to respond in Love and Patience instead of Bitterness and Vengeance.

It also makes me want to be a better friend. Suggest less and listen more. Being a good listener or having someone to listen to you is life changing.

Man, even if Lily hadn’t found out that Snow Flower didn’t join the sworn sisters, it would have been a good story. I find it interesting that Lily was forced to live twice the average age and spend all that time regretting. I hope she was able to use her position and status to teach other women of forgiveness and love.

So much there to talk about… So much to think about…

3. bethany3boys - April 27, 2007

I agree Michelle, I love your phrase “this is how it happens in real life fast and messy. Pain, Criticize the other person, suppress your feelings, protect your heart, betrayal and hatred.” You summed it up perfectly. I am right there with you.

It is interesting and fitting in a sense that Lily had to live so long…I am wondering if her next book Peony has anything about Lily in it…because wasn’t Peony her daughter in law? (Pregnant Brain is forgetting stuff easy). Some books I just wish would continue on. HEE HEE.

What did you think about “The Part” 😉 😉 😉 HA HA in the beginning of the second section in light of reading the whole book. I was telling a friend that to me when I first read it (I know you know what I am talking about) I was like whoa too much info what is going on here. But in light of reading the whole book I felt like it was more innocent than I thought and that it was a way for the author to show these girls were CLOSE and in all reality they shared a relationship that was probably emotionally closer than the one with their husbands (given the marriage situations and how much….beside the intimacy part…..they really knew their husbands.

I really enjoyed reading Bovary and then this Book back to back. They both taught me a lot about contentment and bitterness and communicating with those in our lives. Great reads.

4. Heather - April 29, 2007

Great summarizing thoughts, gals. Though my lack of posting this month might make it seem otherwise, I too, really enjoyed this book! At the beginning of the book I found myself struggling with the cultural differences, especially after reading the whole footbinding section. The further I dove into the story, however, the more I found those universal emotions and issues that are so common to us as women. By the end, I was amazed at how much I had in common with this woman who lived in a different century and half a world away.

I read an interview with Lisa See where she describes her editor’s first read of the “Letter of Vituperation.” Being a man, he felt readers would be alienated from the characters of Lily and Snowflower after that scene, unable to like them after that. See’s response was “No they won’t! This is normal! Women are mean!” She then asked him to take that chapter to some women and have them read it. They’re response was something like “that’s exactly how women are! They’re mean!” Isn’t that so true? It doesn’t matter what century we live in — as women, we can be catty, hateful, jealous, emotional, and yes, just plain mean! We have a way of saying one thing but meaning another, avoiding the real issues or circling around them. “This was the first time I would do this — properly follow customs and rules on the outside, let loose my emotions for a few terrible moments, and then quietly hang on to my grievance like an octopus to a rock…” p. 139 We allow ourselves to make assumptions, harbor grudges, and pass judgments. And all the while, that root of bitterness is growing.

Lily reminds me of Job’s friends, spouting their platitudes without really knowing the situation. I can do that so easily, myself. I thought Madame Wang’s summation so poetic: “You are a rare person. I saw that long ago. Everyone in our county envies your good luck. Everyone wishes you longevity and prosperity. But I see you breaking two hearts. It is so sad. I remember the little girl you were. You had nothing but a pretty pair of feet. Now you have abundance in your life, Lady Lu — an abundance of malice, ingratitude, and forgetfulness.” p. 226

Lily’s mis-reading of nu-shu is symbolic of how she’s misread so many things in her life. As everything comes out in the open, I was reminded of the ending of “Till We Have Faces,” when suddenly you realize that everything was NOT as it seemed. She really is a gifted writer! Looking back, I can now see the “clues” planted along the way, but they were subtle enough to draw me along without spoiling the story.

Though I can relate to so many of the negative feminine characteristics presented in this book, I’m also grateful for some of the positive aspects of womanhood presented: I loved her Aunt’s character. She seemed to love her husband, child, and family in spite of her low circumstances. I loved Lily’s fierce care for her children during the epidemic (definitely a mama bear kind of love!). I loved the whole idea of nu shu — that though these women would spend almost their entire lifetime confined to the women’s chamber with their golden lilies, they would find a way to break free and reach out and communicate with one another through their secret language: “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. It was to give us a voice. Our nu shu was a means for our bound feet to carry us to each other, for our thoughts to fly across the fields…” p. 160.

Finally, Bethany, regarding “The Part.” 🙂 I’m still not sure what was going on there. At first I thought “yikes!” Then, like you, I thought maybe it was more innocent and just a reflection of their emotional intimacy. But what threw me back to “yikes!” was her reminiscing on those times when she stays overnight at Snow Flower’s home for the first time. I went back to re-read that section, thinking maybe I had seen more in that than there was. It wasn’t any clearer reading it the second time! Maybe See is writing her own kind of nu shu, and leaving it up to us to determine the meaning! 🙂

5. bethany3boys - May 2, 2007

Heather I love your posts!!!! So thorough!!! You always have such great insight.

You know when I think about the part hee hee…you are right about the reminiscing I forgot about when she mentions being annoyed that the butcher made Snow Flower sleep with him when Lily was in town which was not customary. Her comment there did sound a little jealous. Okay ewww…I think maybe I just I will just be left in the dark on this one. HA HA.

The book was great though. One of my favs from this year for sure. Thanks for participating gals.


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