Lisa See, 2005, 253 p.
Word up, dawgs! I’m in the reading spirit again (thank goodness). For awhile there, I just couldn’t get motivated enough to read more than 15 or 20 minutes a day, but now I’m chugging right along. I’ve finished four novels in a fairly short period of time, and the first one is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
Lisa (Books on the Brain) recommended it to me, and I’m very grateful to her because I never would have chosen it on my own. It seemed too “girly” for my taste. Reading a frou-frou novel such as this could easily spoil my good-ol’-gal reputation (like I have one, har)! Snow Flower surprised me because it isn’t frou-frou at all. It’s about women, that’s true, but the women in this novel represent all of us, and the story is a universal one of betrayal and redemption.
Snow Flower is set in 19th century China before, during and after the Taiping Rebellion. The central characters are two girls who are bound by society’s repressive restrictions in many different ways, the most obvious restriction having to do with the binding of their feet.
This disgusting practice occurred off and on throughout early Chinese history. I’ve always been quite puzzled by the appeal of these tiny little feet. If a person can barely walk, then what good is she? The two things that bother me the most about foot binding are these:
1. Mothers agreed to do this to their own daughters. What if they had refused? Would they have been beaten? Humiliated? That would’ve been a small price to pay for the preservation of their daughter’s physical well-being. Instead of a Taiping Rebellion, there should’ve been a Mothering Rebellion!
2. These deformities were considered to be erotic. I’m pretty sure men would’ve been totally turned-off if they were allowed to see the unbound feet of their wives and concubines.
There’s so much more to this novel than just icky foot binding. Snow Flower is essentially about very dysfunctional relationships in a very dysfunctional misogynistic society. Every relationship in the novel is abusive to one degree or another. Mothers deny daughters the affection they so desperately need; fathers ignore and/or mistreat daughters because they are lowly females; husbands and mothers-in-law abuse wives; sisters and girlfriends lie and manipulate and hurt each other in order to to advance their positions in society. Where did the love go? How did this place and time in Chinese history become so dystopic? This is just another example of man’s inhumanity, and it further validates my personal philosophy about the human animal: “Life’s a bitch, and so are you.”
Now for a parting thought or two:
Foot binding isn’t the only stupid and ugly thing that women (and some men) have done in the name of “beauty.” Here are a few more examples: