Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Essay - Critical Essays

Lisa See

Literary Significance and Criticism

Praised by Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Arthur Golden, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is Lisa See’s fourth novel and was published in 2005. It has been a New York Times best seller and was nominated for the Edgar Award.
Criticism of See’s novel can be found mainly in literary book reviews, most of which have been positive.

The significance of this novel lies in See's effective use of historical facts and character development to give the reader an encompassing picture of life for women during this era of Chinese history. Julie Brickman of the San Diego Tribune describes her appreciation of See’s technique: “On every page, she provides fascinating details of the lives of women in China.” Brickman and others also note the emotional impact of See’s description of the practice of foot binding that young girls were expected to endure stoically. “This haunting, beautiful and ineffably sad tale of longing so intense as to be taken beyond the grave, is written in See's characteristically strong prose,” writes Victoria Brownworth from the Baltimore Sun. She also states, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is redolent of history, memory and the brutal nature of the unrequited.” These comments highlight not only See’s talent as a writer but also her ability to reveal historical facts through an emotionally moving story. From the Washington Post, Judy Fong Bates adds, “The wonder of this book is that it takes readers to a place at once foreign and familiar—foreign because of its time and setting, yet familiar because this landscape of love and sorrow is inhabited by us all.”