Often, when there is a lot of hype and buzz about a book I’ll wait to read it until it doesn’t seem like every other person I see or blog I read mentions it. This was the case with this one. I’ve had it on my shelf for a while but wanted to wait to read it until I hadn’t heard it mentioned in a while.
Set in 19th century China, the cultural side of the book is fascinating in much the same way that Memoirs of a Geisha was to me. The traditions from a time and place that fascinate me and make me cringe (the footbinding process) all at the same time were totally intriguing to me. I love a book that makes me head to the encyclopedia and internet to do research cultures and events about which I know very little.
As for the story, Lily and her ‘old same’ Snow Flower’ were matched by the same matchmaker who arranged their marriages and through what seems to be much the same process. This match, however, is expected to be on some levels deeper and more meaningful to these two girls throughout their lives. This is a society where the role of women is to obey and bear sons and their value is based on the smallness of their feet and their ability to bear sons. These two girls matched as ‘old sames’ at age seven, live their lives together and separately in this novel. As women they are limited in what they can do and experience, but they have the secret written language of women that they use to communicate with each other. I’m not going to spend space on the plot since nearly everyone I know has read it already.
I had some mixed feelings about this book. I think the background of the cultural and societal stuff was actually more interesting to me than the actual relationship and story of Lily and Snow Flower. It was good and interesting, but not overwhelmingly good.