This was a fascinating picture of life for women in China in the nineteenth century, as told by Lily when she is 80 years old reflecting back on her life. She lives in a world where women's feet determine their marriageability, relationships are contractual, women inhabit the "inner" sphere, while men dominate the outer, and where females are considered useless unless they bear sons. The main focus is her friendship with Snow Flower, and the secret fan on which they write the special women's language "nushu" (this may be spelled wrong, since I listened to rather than read the book.) As Lily goes through her life, she struggles with choosing between adhering to society's expectations of her or ignoring the many rules to maintain her friendship with Snow Flower, who has married into a family of lower social status. She also continually fails to accept Snow Flower for who she really is, with heartbreaking consequences. My review seems very inadequate, but let me assure you that the books is much better! It is very simply, but beautifully written. It also made me grateful to be living in this time and place. I have no desire to go through the painful process of having my feet bound so that they will resemble lilies and be admired by my husband. I'm sure he doesn't even know my shoe size!