I picked this book up for dirt cheap at one of my two used bookstores, it was in a sale pile and the title seemed interesting. I had no idea that I would quickly become enveloped in this book and be unable to put it down, my emotions running high at this historical fiction novel. It taught me a lot about a period in a culture I had heard of but didn’t know much about.
Quick Summary: In nineteenth century China, a young seven year old girl named Lily who lives in a rural village is about to have her life changed. She is bound to another seven year old girl to be her “old same”, which is a friendship that is supposed to last a lifetime. It is a very special friendship that will bend each girls futures in different ways. Along with this relationship, you share the experience of Lily getting her ‘lotus feet’, or foot binding, which if done properly will help her find a good husband. Through this novel you experience Lily’s life from a small girl to an old woman, and they many trials and tribulations that come within her ‘old same’ relationship and that of a woman in that century.
This book got to my feelings, I”m not going to lie. I had heard of foot binding before, but never really understood the meaning behind it nor the process. After reading this book I shudder at thinking of what these poor young girls and women went through for what was supposed to be a thing of beauty and status. I warn you: if you go and look ‘foot binding’ up on the internet, you are going to be met with some vivid and probably disturbing images.
Beyond the pain and learning of foot binding and how it effects Lily’s life, you also learn about the ‘old same’ relationship, which is an emotional friendship that lasts a life time. It’s like being handed someone as a child and saying “this is now your best friend forever”, and the two of you share everything with each other. You tell each other things you don’t tell other friends, invite them over for special social, etc. In addition you learn about the secret language women in that time period used to speak to each other. Women were banned from learning to write or read, so I’ll leave it to you to find out on your own the special way they communicated.
This novel was well written with beautiful language in a first person way. The timeline of Lily’s life where major events happen within her family and within her Country are told in amazing detail. It can be a little bit long winded and dry at some points, a few people I have spoken too about the book couldn’t get past the mundane details about her everyday life or how many time it put women down culturally (it does mention it quite a few times). Sometimes with it being first person, you feel as though some parts are a bit glossed over or some pieces are described a bit too in detail. Yet beyond these little annoyances, I enjoyed the book.