Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Lily is the daughter of a humble farmer in Yongming County, and to her family is just another mouth to feed until she can be married off. But, when she is six years old she is brought before the ambitious local matchmaker who delivers some startling news: Lily is no ordinary girl. If they are bound properly, her feet will be flawless. In nineteenth-century China, where a woman's eligibility is judged by the shape and size of her feet, this is extraordinarily good luck. Lily now has the power to make a good marriage and change the fortunes of her family. But first she must undergo the agonies of footbinding, learn nu shu, the famed secret women's writing, and make a very special friend. A girl will be chosen as her 'old-same' which is a relationship almost akin to marriage and treated with as much seriousness. Her 'old-same', Snow Flower, is a wonder to Lily. She comes from a refined family and is elegant, educated, but cannot suppress her adventurous streak. Even though their worlds are far apart and they rarely see one another, the two girls develop a deep bond through their letters written in nu shu which they paint on fans and embroider on handkerchiefs. As the years go by, Lily and Snow Flower share the burden of being born female in feudal China and find comfort in their friendship until they come of age to be married. But a bitter reversal of fortune is about to change everything. "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is a story of two extraordinary women surviving in a time of strict rules and ancient customs. With the eye of a historian and the vibrancy of a true storyteller, Lisa See has written a truly mesmerizing novel filled with colour, fascinating detail and heartfelt drama.