Friday: Review and Recipe

Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See
I imagine it must be difficult to bring a book to life on screen. There are so many disparate readers with their own ideas of how characters should look, and what has to be included, or left out of, a story.
From what I've heard, The Help is an example of the best books on film (I'm seeing it this weekend). Unfortunately, another very good book didn't receive the same treatment. You may not want to see the new movie Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but definitely read the novel.
Author Lisa See is a deft hand at weaving together themes of history, family, women, and friendship. I first discovered her through her earlier mystery series set in 1990s urban China (see recommended books below).
I was intrigued when she changed genres with this novel, set in 19th century rural China. No matter the time period, though, See remains true to her strengths, focusing on ties that bind women around the world and throughout history.
Despite the title, Lily is the central figure in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. She is a girl whose bound feet are a symbol of her life - bound by rules, by men, by the strictures of her culture. Women of Lily's time were confined to their homes, rarely able to venture outdoors due to their inability to walk normally, their world as narrow and small as their feet. See's description of the tortuous foot-binding process - and its aftermath - is horrifying, and ironic given that men of that time believed women were the weaker sex.
Lily's new "beautifully formed feet" give her an opportunity to rise in the world, to leave her middle-class family and move into a high-status marriage. She also is offered the chance to have a laotong, or "old-same" friendship, with Snow Flower in a ceremony that binds them to each other for eternity.
As Lily and Snow Flower enter their new marriages - with Snow Flower taking a different path and marrying beneath her status - the two old-sames must communicate through nu shu, a secret phonetic code that women have used for over 1,000 years in China. Messages were sent on embroidery, paintings, fan decorations, and carvings, which gave the women a way to communicate despite their confinement. However, the very fact that the messages were coded and hidden occasionally led to confusion and misunderstandings.
As Lily gains power in her family and community, she becomes prideful and bitterly protective of her rank and status. She and Snow Flower survive war, epidemic, and loss, but it is one of those misunderstood nu shu messages that divides the laotongs, in an event that Lily comes to regret. (2005 - Random House)
Other Recommended Books by Lisa See: Shanghai Girls, Peony in Love, Flower Net, Interior, Dragon Bones

Recipe: Bok Choy Salad
Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that was first used for medicinal purposes in ancient China, but quickly became a popular ingredient in stir-frys and salads. Like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, this recipe is a good combination of complex and simple, sweet and salty.
1 pkg. ramen noodles                                  1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds                             1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil                                            1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce                                          
6 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups bok choy (can substitute or supplement with spinach)
Remove flavor packet from ramen and set aside for something else. Crumble dry noodles onto baking pan, and combine with seeds and almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Set aside. Combine sugar, olive oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool thoroughly. Combine greens and onions, sprinkle with dressing and toss. Add noodle/nut mixture and toss. Serve immediately. (Recipe courtesy of Anne Taylor)

1 comment:

  1. For all the other readers out there: this is one of the best salads I've ever had.