Review: February Flowers [2007]

February FloweraAuthor: Fan Wu
Year: 2007
Publisher: Washington Square Press

About (goodreads):
Set in modern China, February Flowers tells the stories of two young women’s journeys to self-discovery and reconciliation with the past.
Seventeen-year-old Ming and twenty-four-year-old Yan have very little in common other than studying at the same college. Ming, idealistic and preoccupied, lives in her own world of books, music, and imagination. Yan, by contrast, is sexy but cynical, beautiful but wild, with no sense of home. When the two meet and become friends, Ming’s world is forever changed. But their differences in upbringing and ideology ultimately drive them apart, leaving each to face her dark secret alone.

Insightful, sophisticated, and rich with complex characters, February Flowers captures a society torn between tradition and modernity, dogma and freedom. It is a meditation on friendship, family, love, loss, and redemption and how a background shapes a life.

I say…

It is a book with complex characters. Miao Yan and Chen Ming are extremely opposite individuals. Miao Yan knew a lot, even though it was Chen Ming who is more intelligent. Even though friends, they are estranged beings. Yan is like the flame, and Ming a moth attracted to it. 

February Flowers is indeed a book about self discovery. It’s not only about one’s sex preference, but self discovery in general. We are all curious of what we don’t know. We learn a lot from people we meet, more than we learn from the people who are actually responsible for teaching us. But who exactly are these people responsible of doing that? Is it someone from your family, your teachers, your friends? Maybe it depends on what you might want to know.

The book became an insight [for me] to China’s early 90’s. As if they were torn between keeping the tradition and embracing the modern lifestyle. One of the funny parts from the book was Ming, Ping Ping and Donghua’s discussion about first kisses, sex and relationships. Their display of naivety simply amused me, as they reveal their thoughts and eventually misconceptions about sex and getting into a relationship. That part almost made me think Ming is ready to accept that she is homosexual. But the author left her reader to choose Ming’s sex preference. In my opinion, she didn’t make it clear when the book ended. Although Ming’s thoughts were all about Yan, I don’t think that makes her a lesbian.

I didn’t like the ending since it didn’t reveal that much. I suddenly felt like I was reading one of those “make your own ending” type of books. But at least Chen Ming didn’t stop, at a time in her life others might consider “the end”. She just kept moving forward.

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