by Lisa See
The setting is 19th century china–a world of secluded women’s chambers, foot binding, sworn sisterhoods, and the secret written language of nu shu. While there is family life, marriage, tragedies, and every other one of life’s realities, the book is about the friendship that bonds two women.
Lily and Snow Flower are contracted and sworn to one another as “old sames,” a relationship deeper than marriage, although formally arranged in much the same way. As readers we are given a very intimate look at a the private lives of these women through their story and the role that their secret language plays in it, both symbolically and practically.
The novel reads like a memoir, with a very inviting tone. The nu shu messages exchanged in the story are beautifully poetic, and the general structure and word choice of the book give it a special feel, creating a subtle exotic feel that makes it all the more attractive. A feminine book to be sure, but far too graceful for the chick lit label, which tends have a sassier tone. It’s a perfect poolside summer read.