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

Lisa See

Brief summary

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is a historical fiction that explores the profound relationship between two women in 19th-century China, bound by a secret language and the difficulties of societal expectations.

Give Feedback
Table of Contents

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
    Summary of key ideas

    Embarking on A Female Friendship

    In Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, by Lisa See, we are introduced to a life-long friendship between two women, Lily and Snow Flower. Matched by a local matchmaker and bound by an "old sames" friendship pact in 19th century rural China, Lily and Snow Flower begin their journey of shared experiences and the harnessing of a secret women's language known, all the while subjected to the societal hardships faced by women.

    The book begins with the introduction of nu shu, a secret phonetic script used by women to communicate and keep records of their lives away from the prying eyes of men. This forms the bedrock of Lily and Snow Flower's correspondence throughout their lives, enabling them to express their emotions, dreams, and tribulations in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society.

    Exploring the Method of Footbinding

    Lily and Snow Flower, like many women of their time, are subjected to the painful tradition of footbinding. Lisa See uses the footbinding tradition as a symbolic reference to the oppressive and painful experiences of women in this culture. The girls endure this agonizing practice as a rite of passage to womanhood and acceptance in society. The smaller their feet, the greater their prospects of marrying into a reputable family.

    In their seclusion during footbinding, the young girls grow together, sharing stories, embroidering beautiful messages on a fan, and strengthening their bond. The fan becomes a recurring theme in the book, representing the intricacies, pains, and joys of their evolving lives and friendship.

    Experiencing the Effects of Misinterpretation

    Despite their unbreakable bond, as expected, life takes Lily and Snow Flower on different paths. Lily secures a marriage into a higher social caste, while Snow Flower marries into a lower class. Over time, a misunderstanding emerges from a misinterpreted nu shu message from Snow Flower on the fan. This tests their friendship severely as Lily feels betrayed by Snow Flower, who she perceives had lied to her about her husband's real social status.

    Lily’s lack of understanding leads to drama, tension, and a temporary detachment of their friendship. Amidst the personal upheavals and societal frame set for women, they experience personal growth, maturity, and an insight into the role of perception in friendship and human relationships.

    Reflecting on Lifelong Regret and Forgiveness

    The series of events force Lily to reflect, leading her to regret her misinterpretation of the nu shu messages. In her old age, she realizes that her best friend never intended to deceive her. She mourns Snow Flower’s death, expressing her wish to be abandoned in a place where the regret won't reach her. As Lisa See draws a vivid image of the raw and unforgiving reality of a patriarchal society, we witness the novel's significance as a deeply reflective study of friendship, regret, and forgiveness.

    In conclusion, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan showcases an extraordinarily vivid and poignant story of friendship set amidst the harsh realities of 19th-century China. Lisa See beautifully intertwines the thematic threads of friendship, love, regret, and forgiveness in a truly heart-touching narrative. The novel reminds us of the importance of communication and perception in our relationships.

    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 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 story set in 19th century China. It follows the lifelong friendship between two women, Snow Flower and Lily, as they navigate the complexities of love, loyalty, and cultural expectations. Through their secret communication using a secret code called nu shu, they share their hopes and dreams, creating a bond that transcends time and societal norms.

    Who should read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?

    • Readers interested in exploring the complexities of female friendships within Chinese culture
    • Individuals seeking insights into the role of tradition and societal expectations on women's lives
    • Those who enjoy historical fiction novels that weave together themes of love, loyalty, and resilience

    About the Author

    Lisa See is a renowned author known for her beautifully crafted historical fiction novels. With a passion for exploring the intricacies of Chinese culture, See has written several critically acclaimed books that transport readers to different times and places. Some of her notable works include Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Through her storytelling, See has captured the hearts of readers around the world and continues to be a prominent voice in the literary world.

    Categories with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

    Book summaries like 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.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    29 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