Friday, May 29, 2009

Chinese Intrigue

At our May Book Club we discussed the wonderful book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. We all loved it. Rather than try to summarize this book myself, I'll quote what is written on the author's website:

A language kept a secret for a thousand years forms the backdrop for an unforgettable novel of two Chinese women whose friendship and love sustains them through their lives.

This absorbing novel – with a storyline unlike anything Lisa See has written before – takes place in 19th century China when girls had their feet bound, then spent the rest of their lives in seclusion with only a single window from which to see. Illiterate and isolated, they were not expected to think, be creative, or have emotions. But in one remote county, women developed their own secret code, nu shu – "women's writing" – the only gender-based written language to have been found in the world. Some girls were paired as "old-sames" in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their windows to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

An old woman tells of her relationship with her "old-same," their arranged marriages, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood—until a terrible misunderstanding written on their secret fan threatens to tear them apart. With the detail and emotional resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha , Snow Flower and the Secret Fan delves into one of the most mysterious and treasured relationships of all time—female friendship.

I highly recommend this book!

We had a great discussion about foot binding (and whether or not the things people do to their bodies in our culture can be compared in any way to that tradition that has thankfully been dying out), education of women, arranged marriages, friendships between women, mother love, and the Chinese animals assigned to each year. The author did an amazing job in her descriptions of different characters and their corresponding animal years, and it was quite humorous in some instances. It made me curious what year I was born in and if the characteristics assigned to that animal held true. This website has a way to calculate which year you were born in and a summary of each animal's traits.

I was born in the year of the TIGER. I am supposedly: Liberal-minded, outrageous, heroic, love limelight, gamble all and risk everything believes life is for living in a big way. Thrives on action and new ideas. Brave, gifted, clever, reckless, fights for what is right but no discipline, vague, quarrelsome.

Not so sure about everything there... I liked another website's description a little better:

Tigers may not be the king of the jungle, but these striped cats are no softies! Magnetic and self-possessed, Tigers are born leaders. They have an air of authority that prompts others to fall in line, which is exactly how they like it. Although they are magnetically charming and fun to be around, Tigers like to go it alone sometimes too. A Tiger's main interest is in following its ambitions -- and maintaining control.

Tigers are courageous beyond compare and generally come out ahead in battle, be it in the boardroom or the bedroom. Seduction is one area where the Tiger is definitely king! Noble and warm-hearted, Tigers have a natural, raw appeal that's extremely attractive to other Signs. They're not just about attraction, though; ever on the side of right, Tigers will fight the good fight to the bitter end if the cause is worthy. Opponents are wise to fear this feline.

A bit of caution is a good thing around Tigers, since they can pounce without warning. They experience mood swings and often feel things more intensely than others, the latter quality being both good and bad. They can react poorly under stress and are prone to emotional outbursts. This Sign's bristling sensitivity can send friend and foe running for cover.

A lesson that Tigers would be well-served to learn is moderation in all things. Once these cats can find their center and direct their considerable energies toward worthwhile endeavors (as opposed to racing through life), they will accomplish much.

I'm not into astrology at all, but it's interesting to see which characteristics I have (or don't).

Both Ryan and Olivia were born in the Year of the SNAKE.

Some of the snake characteristics:
Power seeker, looking for excitement and intrigue, money and fashion conscious, graceful, softly spoken, elegant, well groomed, wise, passionate, cool under pressure, intelligent, thoughtful, attractive, but sometimes conceited, poor loser.

Coleman was born in the year of the SHEEP.
Some of the sheep characteristics are: Lucky, attract prosperity and comfort, emotional, feminine, compassionate, artistic, graceful, timid, good Samaritan, shoulders to cry upon, kind, perceptive, eccentric, whimsical, indecisive, insecure, pessimistic.

It's interesting that some of the characteristics for each of us hit the nail on the head... others are pretty far from reality... but if anything else, it's entertaining.

**Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?
**What year were you born in?
**Are the characteristics right on or nowhere near the truth?


Cheri said...

I actually read this book (on my own, not as part of a book club)! I enjoyed it but half the time it made me want to cry. I do appreciate the books that open our eyes a bit.