Two girls, Lily and Snow Flower, in 1800s China form a lifelong friendship in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Using a fan, the girls write notes and poems to one another in a secret form of ancient Chinese “women’s writing,” called nu shu. Together they endure the physical agony of having their feet bound, and together they dream of their futures, knowing, of course, that they will always remain the best of friends.
But as the girls grow, and Lily’s marriage is of a higher status than Snow Flower’s, their tight friendship begins to give way under the new– and increasingly difficult– circumstances of their diverging lives. Both girls face their personal sorrows and silent depressions alone, hardening to the world and to each other in their own ways. Feelings are hurt and words are left unspoken, eventually destroying their friendship. But as the years go by, their hearts still ache for one another. Can Lily ever repair the damage she has done to Snow Flower and to their friendship?
This novel was sad yet lovely, with significant cultural, historical, and educational value.