I saw the film before I read the book (I don't usually do that), so I knew the basic plot of the book. However, having read Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, I knew the excellent quality of the author's work and wanted to see what was left out of the film.This book is a frank look at the hardships endured by Chinese women in the 19th century. From footbinding to having no status other than that obtained by bearing sons (regardless of social class/position), these ladies had it pretty bad. The only relief for Lily and Snow Flower seems to be their laotong relationship, which is best described as a same-sex marriage (and yes, there are some slightly lesbian overtones at times in this book) that is contracted at a very young age.The friendship between the two main characters is enduring, despite their ups and downs in social standing and life situations.See did a great deal of research for this book, including interviewing elderly people who had first-hand experience of some of the cultural mores described. This is not what one would call an easy, beach-read sort of book, but it is well worth investigating.