See describes the lives of women in a time when having a daughter instead of a son was a curse. Women were basically tenants in their family (or natal) homes until they were married off to another family, where they would be little more than a servant to their mothers-in-law and the men in the family. A woman who never had a son would always be the lowest ranked person in a household, and domestic violence was a regular occurrence.
See blends her research on the time period expertly with the story of a friendship that takes place for the most part long distance in the form of letters written in nu shu, a secret language for women. The process of foot binding is also described in detail. Women tried to reach the perfect foot length, 3 inches, in an excruciating process that involved wrapping feet in such a way that they would break and heal in the shape of a lotus flower.
I highly recommend this novel, especially to fans of Amy Tan and Arthur Golden.