Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Book number three in my Expanding Horizons Challenge!

In 19th century China, a young girl is paired in a lifelong friendship with Snow Flower, her “laotong”. They communicate in a secret language called “nu shu”, one created by women, by writing on a beautiful fan that is sent back and forth between the two. As they get older, they share their struggles and joys, but their committed relationship is put to the test because of a misunderstanding that threatens to completely demolish their friendship.

This book made me recall the theme of this challenge, more than the others I’ve read. I was brought into the world of foot binding (OUCH!), arranged marriages, family customs, festivals, where women and men were kept separate in conversation and daily activities. Women during this time were viewed with such little value, only as good as the children they bore (you’d better hope it was a boy). However, through the interactions between Lily and Snow Flower, you see just how strong and smart women have always had to be.

Friendship is also an important theme; actually it’s the central theme. As Snow Flower and Lily get older, their lives become different, as is the case with many life-long friends. This is very relatable if you’ve had the privilege of such a relationship. Expectations and attitudes shift, and this book shows the challenges of such changes.

Some of the book, particularly dealing with the friendship during the later years, feels a little rushed, but other than that I felt this was a good choice to expand my horizons.

3.25 out of 5 Iggystars

Book Review: Love in the Time of Cholera

The second book from my Expanding Horizons Challenge.

Ok, right off the bat I'm going to admit that I'm pretty conflicted about this book. There is a disturbing turn, which I won't go into complete detail, but will alert by way of a spoiler warning towards the end of my review.

A young Florentino Ariza falls madly in love with the beautiful Fermina Daza and his affections are returned, however, Daza later decides to marry a young, successful doctor. Ariza, with fiercely held devotion, still loves Daza over the decades and makes love to many women (yeah, like hundreds) to cope with his pain. Some fifty years later, he is allowed once again to profess his love to the true woman of his dreams.

There was so much I loved about this book. This book is about love. That first love before you knew what physical love was about. You wanted to be with a person, and you didn't know what you'd do with them once you got them. The love of family. Love out of duty. Love that's tempered with reason. Love that is steady. Love that burns in your heart, makes you get goosebumps or allows you to tend to a person when they are sick. Love when you're older. Secret love. Loving with your body, but not your heart. All written with such beauty.

All these subthemes about love are explored in this book that flashes back and forward while focusing on several different characters, but mainly Ariza and Daza. Ariza pines for Daza and some have expressed that he seemed like a stalker. I think that anyone who feels this way is obviously in a good relationship. If you're alone, if you haven't found your true love, who do you think of? That first love, the love that isn't tarnished by real life, it's completely idealistic (and unrealistic). Through that reasoning, I understood this character.

However, I totally got Daza as well. Real love isn't a fantasy and the decision she makes to marry well was a good one.

Spoiler Warning**********
Ok, I have to express my disappointment in the decision to have Ariza get into a relationship with a much younger...girl. Many have argued that the book is set in a time where young girls were considered women at an early age, many marrying in their teens. Well, I almost bought that theory. I wanted to buy it. However, in the book, this relationship is set up so that Ariza is a grandfatherly figure to the girl, and uses his position to take advantage of the situation. Not cool, I don't care when the time period, this turns a character that I had so much sympathy for, into a creep and from that point on, it was hard for me to root for him. I like my antiheroes to be a little less grimy.

Another theory is that the story is to be more about the theme of love, than the actual characters. Nope, still not buying it. Too much literal storytelling for that to be true and if it is allegorical, then this plot could have easily been left out.
Spoiler Ended*************

Overall though, I enjoyed this offering from Marquez. I can't wholeheartedly recommend it...oh, I want to so badly, but it has to get knocked down a point or two because of the one glaring problem I had with it.

3.5 out of 5 Iggystars