Every now and then a book comes along that takes your breath away.
This month's read for book club was like that. It was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. The title is appropriate after you read the book, but doesn't really give you any indication of what or how the book is going to unfold.
What a BOOK!! All of us couldn't put it down, and all of us were excited to talk about this book (which isn't always the case) - after we talked about our families, and ate lots of good food, and well, just enjoyed being together and being women, and talking about just everything before we wound our way around back to the book. I didn't know what to expect, but it was a beautiful, moving, somewhat disturbing and gritty, but very elegantly written tale of two women in China beginning in the 1820s when women still went through foot binding. Parts were really hard to read (from the point of view of what was acceptable to do to women), and yet, it was a book that felt like it gave you access to a part of the world and set of experiences that are completely foreign to a twentieth century Caucasian woman.
We got to talking about standards of beauty, and what is considered barbaric, and what is truly "all in the eye of the beholder" when you discuss foot binding, whale-boned corsets, labrettes, head binding to create a flat forehead, piercings, high heels and bras all in the same conversation. Being born in our time, in this place was something we all agreed upon as being really good, especially as a result of some of the books we have read and experiences we have collectively had or read/heard/been exposed to.
Of course, the next book I read after this didn't measure up by any standard. It was just an ok read and one that just didn't flow all that great for me. Then again, this book set a pretty high standard.