A story set in 19th century China and centered on the lifelong friendship between two girls who develop their own secret code as a way to contend with the rigid cultural norms imposed on women.
Summary (from the back of the book): In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, or "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime.
Review: I loved Shanghai Girls, also by Lisa See, and was really looking forwar to reading another of her novels. So when the film version of this epic story about the friendship between two women in 19th century China hit the screen last week in New York, I was there.
Keep in mind that Snow Flower is no ordinary example of chick lit; its film version is not an Asian-style chick flick.
In the laotong tradition two girls would be matched at a young age as laotongs if they were destined to be together. As laotongs, they pledged to be loyal friends forever, and this bond was formalized in a contract that could never be broken. As both See’s novel and the film version show, women’s lives in China were difficult and emotionally brutal in those early times. Their marriages were business arrangements made by their families with a matchmaker who tried to get the “best deal.” A women’s worth on the marriage market was derived from her family’s wealth and social status and by her feet.
This instituted the painful custom of foot binding in which a girl of around six years old had the bones in her feet broken. Frequently, a professional foot binder was secured because the mother was often too emotionally weak to perform the excruciating process on her own daughter. In the movie, when the small child Lily cries out to her mother and begs her to stop, her mother replies, “In pain there is beauty. While bound feet might give a woman with a “Lotus gait” thought to be erotic by Chinese men, they also made her unable to walk.
Like any long, intimate relationship, the one between Lily and Snow Flower has its complications, and inevitably conflict occurs when the two friends are thrust by fate into different kinds of lives. In the film version, director Wayne Wang juxtaposes the tale of Lily and Snow Flower with a story of two modern Chinese women, Nina and Sophia, who struggle to maintain their own close friendship while meeting the demands of complex lives in today’s Shanghai. While Wang most likely intended to broaden the appeal of See’s original version, he loses its soul by offering us this contemporary story that was not part of the original book. However, there is far less attention, scholarly or otherwise, given to the subject of women and friendship. The bottom line on Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is to read the novel if you have not already. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, directed by Wayne Wang; written by Angela Workman, Ron Bass and Michael K.


Interviews, stories, TWE Radio, and more, by and about women who want to make the planet a better place. Have an inspiring woman whom you'd like to see interviewed or a story idea for The Women's Eye? The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. And, I had heard a lot of good things about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan around the blogosphere.
I didn't know anything about footbinding (I cannot even imagine!), women's chambers (where women hang out together), "old same" and sworn sisters (match makers set you up with friends to support you), or what China was like in the 1800s. I felt as if Lily's life, while not easy, seemed somehow blessed while everyone around her fell to the worst of everything. I read it the year it was released which seems like a long long time ago.Glad u enjoyed it!
See is so good at giving the reader a real sense of what life was like in China!Aths--That's so funny that we found the same problem with the book!
This is the theme of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, the international best-selling novel by Lisa See, recently made into a feature film by director Wayne Wang.
All of my life I have been blessed with female (and male) friends who have cared for me, taught me, protected me, and given me opportunities that I would have otherwise missed. So were hundreds of other women who waited in line to see the movie version of Lily and Snow Flower’s tale, which has resonated with readers around the world.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan tells the story of two laotongs which literally means “old sames.” The custom of laotong was not practiced throughout China, but was specific to a minority tribe in the Hunan province where the story of Lily and Snow Flower, played by Gianna Jun and Li Bingbing, takes place.
In suffering, there is peace of mind.” This is a poignant belief which may have comforted her generation of Chinese women throughout their hard lives. When the two have a falling out, they chillingly inflict their anger on each other with silent, yet deep, cuts to the bone, something only close friends know how to do. This is sad because much of the rich detail in See’s historical saga is missing in his confusing rendition. However, the gifted performances of the young actresses Gianna Jun and Ni Bingbing playing dual roles somehow rescue the movie.
They manage to convey the agony and tenderness at the center of Lily’s and Snow Flower’s relationship and the intensity and playfulness at the core of Sophia’s and Nina’s. It is gorgeous to behold (although I do not know anyone who sees a film for the sake of the art direction).
I believe the popularity of See’s original Snow Flower illustrates an underlying truth in the lives of women.


As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
I was not disappointed and enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it like I had loved Shanghai Girls.
See's descriptions of these women's lives were really good; I felt like I could see and smell the houses, feel the fabrics of their clothing, and know what they were going through as they maneuvered their way through their days. For example, if most people died at 40, why does Lily live to 80, outliving almost all her relatives?
He also directed the successful movie version of Amy Tan’s equally successful book, The Joy Luck Club.
For others, it is an extremely supportive marriage, and for still others, it is material success or worldly accomplishment.
They were continually unbound and checked, but the broken bones were always folded over again and rebound.
Their husbands are completely left out because men are unable to understand what was written in nu shu.
If only Wang had the courage of the fictitious Lily and Snow Flower and dared to make this a full historical drama by staying faithful to See’s novel.
If you truly would like to get the most from this story, make sure to read the book as well.
Loyalty toward other women in close friendships is as essential to most women as are all the other aspects of their lives. They both endure the agony of footbinding and together reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared lonliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood.
The author did a great job at setting the scene, making me care about the characters, and combining history, culture, and literature. I did find the relationship between Snow Flower and Lily interesting; how two women's lives were so intertwined and reliant on one another. Decades later as is shown in the movie, Chinese women look back on foot binding as if they were being shackled in slavery.
I am not sure what I wanted from the story line that I didn't get, but by the end I wanted someone else to have a decent life.



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