Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Book Summary - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Book explained in key points

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan summary

Brief summary

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a captivating historical novel set in 19th century China. It follows the deep and complex friendship between two women, Lily and Snow Flower, and explores the traditions and challenges they face as women in a patriarchal society.

Give Feedback
Table of Contents

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
    Summary of key ideas

    Exploring the Lives of Women in 19th Century China

    In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, we are transported to 19th century China, where we meet Lily, a young girl from a remote Hunan county. The story begins with Lily's foot-binding, a painful and traumatic experience that marks her entry into womanhood. It is during this time that she is paired with Snow Flower, another young girl from a different village, in a lifelong friendship contract known as laotong.

    The two girls communicate through nu shu, a secret phonetic script used exclusively by women. They write to each other on a fan, which becomes their secret fan. Their friendship blossoms as they share their hopes, dreams, and fears through their secret writing. They also endure the hardships of their society, such as arranged marriages and the strict social hierarchy that limits women's freedom.

    Marriage and Motherhood

    As they grow older, Lily and Snow Flower marry and start their own families. Lily, who comes from a relatively wealthy family, marries a butcher and enjoys a comfortable life. In contrast, Snow Flower, from a poor family, marries a man from a wealthy family but faces abuse and hardship. Despite their different circumstances, they continue to support each other through their secret communication.

    However, their friendship is tested when Lily discovers a message from Snow Flower to her husband, expressing her unhappiness. Lily, misunderstanding the context, believes that Snow Flower has betrayed her and ends their friendship. This misunderstanding leads to years of estrangement between the two women.

    Reconciliation and Redemption

    As the years pass, Lily's life takes a turn for the worse. She loses her husband and sons to war and famine, and is left alone to fend for herself. It is during this time of loneliness and despair that she reflects on her past, her friendship with Snow Flower, and the mistakes she has made. She realizes that she has misunderstood Snow Flower's message and that her friend had never betrayed her.

    Lily seeks redemption by reaching out to Snow Flower, but it is too late. Snow Flower has died, and Lily is left with deep regret and sorrow. In the end, she finds solace in her memories of their friendship and the knowledge that they will be reunited in the afterlife.

    Themes of Friendship, Betrayal, and Forgiveness

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a poignant exploration of the lives of women in 19th century China. It delves into the themes of friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, and the enduring power of female relationships. The novel also sheds light on the harsh realities of women's lives during this period, highlighting the resilience and strength of characters like Lily and Snow Flower.

    In conclusion, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a beautifully written and emotionally charged novel that offers a glimpse into a world that is both foreign and familiar. It is a story of love and loss, friendship and betrayal, and the enduring bonds that connect us to our past and to each other.

    Give Feedback
    How do we create content on this page?
    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan about?

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a captivating novel set in 19th century China. It tells the story of two young girls, Lily and Snow Flower, who form a deep bond through a secret language called "nu shu." As they navigate the challenges of womanhood and societal expectations, their friendship is tested in unexpected ways. This beautifully written book explores themes of friendship, love, and the resilience of women.

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Review

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005) is a captivating historical fiction novel set in 19th century China. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • The intimate portrayal of the lifelong friendship between Snow Flower and Lily reveals the powerful bonds that can develop between women.
    • The exploration of Chinese culture and traditions, especially the practice of footbinding, immerses readers in a fascinating and richly detailed world.
    • Through its poignant storytelling and exploration of themes such as love, loyalty, and sacrifice, the book delves into the complexities of female relationships and the resilience of the human spirit.

    Who should read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

    • Readers who enjoy historical fiction set in 19th century China
    • Those interested in exploring the complexities of female friendship and societal expectations
    • Individuals who appreciate rich, descriptive storytelling that immerses them in a different cultural world

    About the Author

    Lisa See is an American author known for her captivating historical fiction novels. With a focus on Chinese and Chinese-American culture, See has written several bestsellers, including 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan'. Her works explore themes of female friendship, family, and the resilience of women in different time periods. See's rich storytelling and meticulous research have earned her a dedicated readership around the world.

    Categories with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan FAQs 

    What is the main message of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

    The main message of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the enduring power of female friendship.

    How long does it take to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

    The reading time for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan varies, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is worth reading for its beautifully written story about love and friendship in 19th-century China.

    Who is the author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

    The author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is Lisa See.

    What to read after Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
    • In Pursuit of the Unknown by Ian Stewart
    • The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark
    • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
    • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
    • ISIS by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
    • Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder
    • Gutenberg the Geek by Jeff Jarvis
    • The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
    • Genome by Matt Ridley