Challenges - Fall Into Reading
Published by Bloomsbury in 2006
I am what they call in our village one who has not died yet -a widow, eighty years old.
OK, I am pleased that this book was as beautiful as everyone said it would be, but you could have warned me about how sad it was. I was blubbering away for the last half of the book, the whole episode took me completely unawares.
This book is the fictional memoirs of Lily, a farmer's daughter. Now in nineteenth century China, if you were born a girl, you were considered to be worthless, an extra mouth to feed that was not needed. Families only wanted boys, to help with the family business and carry on the lineage. So Lilly was ignored by her family through her childhood until the time came for her to have her feet bound.
In this period in China, a woman's eligibility for marriage, was judged by the size and shape of her feet. The aim was to have her feet as small as possible, to secure a wealthy match. The local matchmaker informed Lily's parents that once bound, her feet would be flawless. By binding her feet, Lily will change the fortune of her family.
The whole binding process is absolutely horrible. In great detail, the book explains how they would bind and break the foot, until it was about six inches long. Can you imagine them being allowed to do that today. The toes are broken first and the the bridge of the foot; the girls are made to walk on these feet constantly until they begin to mold into shape. The whole process takes two years and young girls (aged six and upwards) could die from this. I was astounded that practices like this ever occurred.
The main part of the book, looks at the relationship between Lily and her laotong, Snow Flower. Snow Flower was closer to Lily than anyone else, even her husband and the book follows the joys and the trials of their friendship. The main form of communication between the two friends is via a fan which they write on in nu shu (a secret written communication between women). They always attend special events together and the book follows their relationship from their early childhood right up until Snow Flower's death. As Lily's life becomes fortunate, Snow Flower's descends into misery. It was just so sad to read, especially during the period when their friendship deteriorated. Lily was lucky to live the life she did, but many women in lower social groups really did suffer and were very badly treated by their in laws and husbands.
The book is full of wonderful descriptive passages and you could easily immerse yourself into life in China during the nineteenth century. The book is one of those that leaves you pondering life afterwards and again it makes you realise how lucky you are to live in society today.
If you haven't read this book full of passion and love, but also hardship and sorrow,then you must read this. If you loved Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, then I absolutely insist you read this. Just remember to keep a box of hankies close by.