In nineteenth-century China, Lily, seven, is paired with a laotong, another little girl called Snow Flower, for an emotional match.
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Snow Flower introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan, on which she has written a poem in nu shu (a language created by Chinese women to communicate in secret and that the most educated of them used to teach to their daughters). They take turns in writing on the fan.
From Daughter days to Sitting Quietly days, the girls endure footbidding (allowing them to make an arranged marriage), they learn how to take care of a home, and study nu shu in the women chamber of their respective homes, while the men work outside. Lily, a farmer's daughter, marries up and becomes Lady Lu. Snow Flower, an opium addict's daughter, whose father can not support his family anymore, marries down, and lives a hard life as the wife of a country butcher. They both pray to have boys, which will give them a higher status in the in-laws household. Lily has three sons and a daughter, Snow Flower, two sons and a daughter (and a lot of miscarriages). They meet at set dates to visit the Temple of Gupo or to go back to their families for the Catching Cool Breezes Festival. Over the years, they share their pains through messages in nu shu, and record important events of their lives on the fan.
A misunderstanding causes the women to stop writing to each other, but they reconcile as Snow Flower's death approaches.
The review of this Book prepared by Lydie Barquet