As someone who tends to read more historical fiction, mainstream fiction and nonfiction, this class is exposing me to many types of books I have yet to experience. While I'm a little surprised to find myself enjoying mysteries and thrillers, I just haven't bought into the romance or western genres. Regardless, becoming familiar with popular titles of all genres – even those you don't particularly enjoy – is an essential part of being a good librarian.
The first genre the course covered is historical fiction. The required book read by the class was Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (1999), and for the title of my choosing I picked Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005). I've read a couple of See's other books (she tends to focus on historical fiction about Chinese women) and have enjoyed them all immensely. Below is my review of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I listened to on audiobook - which I highly recommend!
In 19th century China the birth of a son is met with joyous celebration, but for baby girls, the future is not nearly as bright. The only real value placed upon girls is their ability to one day attract a suitable husband and give birth to a son of their own. This is largely determined by the outcome of the excruciating foot-binding process experienced by girls around the age of six.
Before Lily’s feet are even bound, high expectations of an extraordinarily good turnout lead a matchmaker to pair the farmer’s daughter with a girl of higher status from a nearby village for a laotong – “old same” – relationship. This intimate and deep bond causes Lily and Snow Flower to become fast friends, but life leads them down very different and difficult roads. As an elderly Lily looks back on the friendship with her laotong from the beginning, she sees obvious clues about Snow Flower’s precarious situation that her childhood innocence allowed her to ignore.
See’s engrossing story of filial piety, tradition, adversity, friendship, pride and humility, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a moving, authentic and well-researched book that sets a high standard for outstanding historical fiction.
I give this book: