I am so excited to be a part of Annie's book challenge! I finished my first book and LOVED it!
I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See for my book with a plant in the title (I know "flower" is kind of a lame plant name, but it was the best I could do at the time!) and it is a fabulous book.
The story is set in 19th century China and focuses on the friendship between Lily and Snow Flower. They are matched as "old sames" when they are just girls - this bond is stronger and deeper than marriage and lasts a lifetime. Their messages of friendship are sent to each other in nu shu - women's secret written language - on a fan. This book follows the friends as they endure the torture of footbinding, the anticipation of marriage, the stresses of Chinese culture and the birth and raising of children. It is a beautiful and painful story of the friendship between women - filled with love and joy, yet heartbreaking and riddled with misunderstandings.
I not only enjoyed the story in this book, but the insight it provided into 19th century Chinese culture as well. As the footbinding process was described I found myself both horrified and fascinated - I even ended up doing an online search to see pictures of those little broken feet. The process of marriage, moving into the in-laws home and the household hierarchy is almost unbelievable. The customs surrounding various Chinese Festivals, birth and death are beautiful. Not only was the story in this book emotionally wrenching, the realities of life in China during that time are almost impossible to fathom.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. It is only 267 pages so it is also a fairly quick read. I would suggest making a friend read it at the same time as the only disappointing thing about this book was not having anyone to discuss it with when I was done!