Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author: Lisa See
Premise: In 19th-century rural Hunan, China, a girl named Lily is arranged to have a lifelong friendship with a girl who is exactly her age, named Snow Flower, by a matchmaker. The book, with many plot twists, follows Lily from ages five to eighty. (I don't want to give too much away, since the plot unfolds so nicely.)
My take on it: This book draws you in from the beginning, and doesn't let you go until the end. Even then, though, it makes you think back on it. That is the first thing you must know about this book: once you start, you're in it to the end.
Next, the characters are quite sympathetic-- even the cruelest characters have their reasons. There is no "bad guy" in this book; there are the characters, all of whom cause each other grief (and sometimes despair), and all of whom have their reasons for doing so.
Third, the plot is beautiful, although I have a few warnings here. For one thing, this book is not for the emotionally unstable. If you suffer from, say, severe depression, this book will hurt you emotionally in some parts. Ah, who am I kidding, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is sad, and, remember that Lily is eighty by the end of the book, most of the characters are dead by the end of the book, whether from old age or other causes.
For another thing, and I must warn you here just in case this bothers you, two of the main characters, including Lily, are lesbian. There is one love scene, which Lily, the narrator, denies is a love scene, and then there are small hints throughout the book. (The hints aren't obvious, though.)
Now, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a wonderful book, in my humble opinion, and I've been raving about it so far. So, I'm going to rave just a little more. Put simply, Lisa See's writing style is awesome. I don't know if she learned it or if it just comes to her naturally, but she can write.
Summary: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a masterpiece, with sympathetic characters, a beautifully unfolding plot, and amazing writing. Not terribly happy, though.