It took me a while to get into this book, mainly because of the way the story was told. It annoys me when stories are told in the past seemingly for no other purpose than to allow the narrator to sprinkle in phrases like “but I didn’t know then what I know now.” I also couldn’t get into Lisa See’s prose. I’m not crazy about simple, declarative sentences in fiction; I am more interested by more color.
Once the story picked up, I was able to forget about those nits. Reading about the everyday lives of women in China in the first part of the nineteenth century was fascinating (and horrifying – I had to walk away from the book more than once during the footbinding part). As to the actual plot of the book, it broke my heart time and again. Life during that time period was uncertain, and the characters are often constrained by strict adherence to tradition. In that context, the endurance of Lily and Snow Flower’s relationship makes for a great story.