all images and stories are the property of Catherine Beerda-Basso and are not to be used without given permission...thank you

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Wisdom Club discusses "SnowFlower and the Secret Fan"

This is us
9 of the 12
"The Wisdom Club"
as we gathered  at Debbie's home
to discuss the book she choose for us
"Snow Flower and The Secret Fan"

by Lisa Lee

This is a beautiful novel
taking place in 19th Century China.
It is a story about two girls
Lily and SnowFlower.
The girls find themselves in an unlikely pairing
matched together at "laotong"...
also called
"old sames".
This pairing, between girls, is a deep emotional union
that lasts a life time,
a most precious friendship bond.
Often a Laotong relationship would be formed when a marriage was contracted between families who were expecting babies. This was done before the babies were born. If both children turned out female against the hopes of their families, the daughters could be brought together as Laotong.
So was the story between 
SnowFlower and Lily.
Though there were many things that the girls shared which made them a perfect match
the biggest difference was their social class.

The book is written from Lily's point of view and covers the space of her life.
Lisa See writes with unique style.
This story is given in a way of passing on information...
passing on a story of true experience,
not so much based on the typical plot form.
No climax no conclusion...
just a story that is.
One woman's view of her life experience.
and what a life it was...

The topics that got the most talk time was first
the practice of foot binding.
At first when the topic came up 
we all wondered how Mother's could have performed
this act of mutilation 
to their daughter's bodies.
But as the conversation went on 
we realized that in our day and age
woman are still mutilating their bodies
for the sake of beauty
but we don't see it as such because 
it is what fits into our culture for today
as did foot binding in the culture of Chinese yesterday.
If you are unsure what foot binding is
here is a video about it...

The purpose was to make
the foot look as small as possible
and resemble a Lotus Flower.
This showed a woman's value.
The process stared at a young age
and involved 
the breaking 
reshaping of the feet.
Through our discussion we were reminded
that perception is truly affected by so many variables.
There may come a time when women of the future wonder about our practice
of nip and tuck
botox shots
and even chemical peals
all in the name of beauty.
The other topic that came up was 
the topic of betrayal...
betrayal with no explanation.
Many of the group had experienced this
sort of thing
with another woman in their close circle.
Relationships suddenly ended with
seemingly no reason.
It took us to some old wounds
and also seeing the woman we have become
because of those wounds.

Here are a few of my favourite "out takes"

"Three Obediences"
1 when a girl-obey your father
2 when a wife-obey your husband
3 when a widow-obey your son

"Four Virtues"
be chaste & yielding, calm & upright in attitude
be quiet and agreeable
be restrained and exquisite in movement
be perfect in handiwork & embroidery
pg 24

"buluo fugia-luo means falling, 
like the leaves in autumn 
falling in death...
for the rest of my life  I would merely be a guest in my husbands home." pg 112

"I was no longer the little girl who could let river water wash away unpleasant feelings." pg 135

"...sons are the foundations of a woman's self..." pg 151

"Nu Shu (the secret written language between women of those days) was to give us a voice..."pg 160
*a personal inspiration to write*

"I had not considered texture, context, and shades of meaning...." pg 242
~this was when Lily reflected on the writings that Snow Flower had sent her which would inevitably sear their union...but upon reflection
as it is with so many things of emotion
she realized she may have taken somethings that were written
out of context.

Another topic was the topic of
many of us wondered how we would have survived
such a male dominated world.
We appreciated the "upper roam"
where the women gathered, but the fact that
that room was their only place
got daunting for women as ourselves
who live in so much freedom.
It became clear why so many women committed suicide
during these times.

this is a story about Sisterhood
and how deep that bound can run between women.
A book I was delighted to read
a book that brought a lively and fulfilling
a book I am most happy to have
on my book shelf
to stay.

Love and Light 


  1. This sounds like a fascinating read - especially in light of my upcoming trip to China!
    Hey Cat, would love you to link this up to Mrs readalot's linky for the month... and I will be keeping an eye out for this too

  2. this book really appeals to me and I'm not sure why. Maybe I'll have to read it to understand why it pulls me. Maybe because I've been unaware of such things like footbinding and the squooshing down of the feminine in that culture.. although I knew in some vague way, I never "knew".. I'm definitely going to have to get this book. Although I didn't read the white masai, I watched the movie because you had written about the story and so it will be with this sharing you've done here. how I would love to be a part of your group in that picture :) beautiful stuff. xo

  3. Funny, I am reading this book right now. Only a few pages left, and it is one seriously beautiful story! Their Nu Shu secret writing, the bond they have, the saddness and lifestyle they endure, is all very touching and hard to imagine today. You make such good points in your review, Cat. Another book on the same sort of lines, only in todays world, is WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS by Terry Tempest Williams. I know you will love it. I'm glad I stopped by. :-)

  4. ohhhhh I'm popping over to book depository to buy this - you've convinced me

  5. It's one of those books that I wish I could never stop reading. The story of the two women and their friendship and the hardships they endured and the lives they lead will stay with you long after the book is finished.

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