Memoirs of a Geisha

ISBN: 0739326872
ISBN 13: 9780739326879
By: Arthur Golden

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About this book

In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world. For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan's most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child's unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto. She is nine years old. In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha's elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow. She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival. Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara. And Memoirs of a Geisha is a triumphant work - suspenseful, and utterly persuasive.

Reader's Thoughts

Sara Nelson

fantastic and detailed.

Zara Aimaq

I first read this book in high school, and although I remember liking it, I don't think I was paying very much attention because I seriously thought the book was just about a bunch of Japanese hookers. But I reread it a few weeks ago, and I loved the story. Memoirs is about the life of this peasanth girl, Sayuri, in pre and post-WW2 Japan who is sold into life as an apprentive Geisha, and then ultimately, an actual Geisha. The novel is full of these really great, vivid details of a variety of characters: gorgeous but evil rivals, the heinous older ladies who run the Geisha houses and practically enslave these girls, and the Geishas' patrons. Readers discover the world of the Geisha through the eyes of Sayuri, as she struggles to find her place in this society and at the same time, follow her heart(very cliche, I know, but I don't want to give away the story!). So the Geisha are women in Japan who are trained in the arts - playing music, dancing, acting, performing tea ceremonies, etc. They make their living entertaining wealthy Japanese men (business men, doctors, political figures), usually in large groups, in tea houses. In pretty rare cases, some of the most popular Geisha undergo a binding ceremony where the geisha is hooked up for life with a Dannah- a very wealthy man who supports her and takes care of her, in exchange for intimacy with her. There are some pretty disgusting scenarios in the book where they just come off like highly-paid prostitutes, but for the most part, the girls in the book are very colorful, strong-willed, and interesting. It's just a very fascinating look into old Japanese culture.

Jeffrey Keeten

”Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper. “ Geisha Mineko Iwasaki basis for Chiyo/Sayori.Chiyo, with her sister Satsu, and her mother and father live in a shack by the sea on the coast of Japan. The shack leans, and has to be propped up to keep from total collapse. Her mother is sick and on the verge of death. Her father is a fisherman, uneducated, and generally befuddled by anything that doesn’t have to do with his fishing nets. When a businessman from the village comes to them with an offer to take their girls to the city it doesn’t take much to convince the father that nearly any opportunity is better than staying there in the tilted shack by the sea. He was wrong. Or was he? Without a crystal ball or access to a series of timelines showing the variations created by changing key decisions at critical junctures how can we know? Satsu, who is fifteen, is promptly placed with a brothel. Not exactly what her father had in mind. I’m sure he was told she would be trained for “domestic service”. Chiyo, who is nine, is deemed young enough to be trained to be a geisha. She is a lovely child with startling rare gray/blue eyes. Those Blue Eyes are what set her apart.The Mother of her geisha house is equally startling in appearance. ”Instead of being white and clear, the whites of her eyes had a hideous yellow cast, and made me think at once of a toilet into which someone had just urinated. They were rimmed with the raw lip of her lids, in which a cloudy moisture was pooled, and all around them the skin was sagging.”Obvious a bit of a failing liver issue going on here, but wait she is really much more mugly. ”I drew my eyes downward as far as her mouth, which still hung open. The colors of her face were all mixed up: the rims of her eyelids were red like meat, and her gums and tongue were gray. And to make things more horrible, each of her lower teeth seemed to be anchored in a little pool of blood at the gums.” Okay so Chiyo lets out a gasp. She starts out her new life in trouble. It doesn’t end there. She is quickly considered a threat to the lovely and vindictive Hatsumomo who is the only fully trained geisha working for the house. Chiyo is accused of stealing (not true). She is accused of ruining an expensive kimono with ink (true but under duress). She is caught trying to escape ( she broke her arm in the process so try and give the kid a break). Well, all of this ends up costing her two years working as a housemaid when she could have been training as a geisha. She receives an unexpected benefactress, a mortal enemy of Hatsumomo named Mameha decides to take Chiyo under her wing and insure that she has another opportunity to become a geisha. Chiyo, tired of scrubbing floors and being the do-this and do-that girl of the household realizes her best chance at some form of freedom is to elevate herself. The Movie based on this book was released in 2005 and directed by Rob Marshall.At age 15 her virginity or mizuage is put up for auction. It is hard not to think of this as a barbaric custom, but for a geisha, if a bidding war erupts, she can earn enough money to pay off all the debts that have accumulated for her training. Chiyo, now called Sayuri, is fortunate to have two prominent men wanting to harvest her flower. The winner is Dr. Crab who paid a record amount for the privilege.”Of course his name wasn’t really Dr. Crab, but if you’d seen him I’m sure the same name would have occurred to you, because he had his shoulders hunched up and his elbows sticking out so much, he couldn’t have done a better imitation of a crab if he’d made a study of it. He even led with one shoulder when he walked, just like a crab moving along sideways.”Not the vision that any girl would have for her first time, but ultimately it is a business transaction that frees Sayori from the bonds of debt. After the deed is done, the eel spit in the cave, Dr. Crab brought out a kit filled with bottles that would have made Dexter jealous. Each bottle has a blood sample, soaked in a cotton ball or a piece of towel of every geisha he has ever treated including the blood from his couplings for their virginity. He cuts a piece of blood soaked towel that was under Sayori and added it to the bottle with her name. Ewwehhh! with a head snapping *shiver*.The cultural obsession, every country seems to have one, with female virginity is simply pathological. Girls can’t help, but be fearful of the process. Not strapped to a table by a serial killer type fear, but still there has to be that underlying hum as the man prepares to enter her. I wonder if men, especially those who avidly pursue the deflowering of maidens, are getting off on that fear? I’ve made myself feel a little queasy now. Sayori is on her way to a successful career. She is in love with a man called The Chairman and wishes that he will become her danna, a patron, who can afford to keep a geisha as a mistress. There are people in the way, keeping them from being together, and so even though there were many geishas who wished for her level of success she still couldn’t help feeling sad. ”And then I became aware of all the magnificent silk wrapped about my body, and had the feeling I might drown in beauty. At that moment, beauty itself struck me as a kind of painful melancholy. “It was fascinating watching this young girl grow up in such a controlling environment; and yet, a system that can also be very deadly. One misstep, one bit of scandal, and many geishas found themselves ostracized by the community. They could very easily find themselves in a brothel. During WW2 the geisha community was disbanded, and the girls had to find work elsewhere. Sayori was fortunate. Despite all the hardships I know she was enduring, Arthur Golden chose not to dwell on them in great detail. I was surprised by this because authors usually want and need to press home those poignant moments, so that when the character emerges from the depths of despair the reader can have a heady emotional response to triumph over tragedy. I really did feel like I was sitting down for tea with Sayori, many years later, and she, as a way of entertaining me, was telling me her life story. Golden interviewed a retired geisha by the name of Mineko Iwasaki who later sued him for using too much of her life story to produce this book. She even had blue eyes. I wonder if Iwasaki was still the perfect geisha, keeping her story uplifting, and glossing over the aspects that could make her company uncomfortable. Mineko IwasakiThe book is listed in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. It was also made into a film, which I’ve been avoiding, knowing that I wanted to read the book first. I notice some reviewers take issue with Sayori. They feel she did not assert herself, and take control of her life. She does in the end, but she is patient, and waits for a moment when she can predict the outcome. I feel that she did what she needed to do to survive. Most of the time she enjoyed being a geisha. It takes a long time to learn not only the ways to entertain, but also all the rigid traditions that must be understood to be a successful geisha. As she gets older, and can clearly define the pitfalls of her actions, we see her manipulating the system in her favor.

Meirav Rath

How honest and true a picture can an American man paint on the world of a geisha? Not much, in my opinion.True, until the second world war starts, the book's a pretty nice window into that hidden world (as much as Golden's resources allowed him to know) but beyond that this book becomes another piece of American romantic kitsch trash as everything the main character ever wanted becomes reality and she moves to the mighty and wonderful America, to the country who flattened two of her nation's cities with atomic bombs. Reading and learning a little about the Japanese on my own, I tend to think she'd have too much pride to do something like that.Written in an OK style, not a work of art that's for sure. I don't recommend this book unless sticky romance novels are your taste.

Amy

I loved this book until I came to the end. And then I was ambivalent. It has now been some time since I finished it, but I seem to recall feeling as though the ending was a man's notion of how a woman would have wanted the story to end. Not that all men are incapable of writing an ending to a woman's story, but maybe just THIS man is oversimplifying things. I could be way off base (who has read this?? help me out), but after pining away for a man that she had a crush on as a girl--a man that she never REALLY knew and who never REALLY knew her, can it really be a happy ending for her after the last page of the book? On the one hand, after so much trauma, you DO just want Sayuri to be "happy" but I can't help but feel as though Nobu would have been a better path for her. Would that ending get in the way of her pursuing her own destiny?? Reading the memoir of the REAL geisha whom Golden based this book on (Mineko Iwasaki) threw many details of the story in doubt--though it is difficult to say whether Iwasaki is embarrassed by the truth, or whether Golden's version is simply wrong. Either way--fascinating topic.

Thomas

People were skeptical when Kathryn Stockett wrote in the voice of two black women in The Help. Arthur Golden took it to another level when he, a white, middle-aged man, narrated as an orphaned Japanese girl on her way to becoming a geisha.It worked, though. Even without knowledge of Golden's extensive experience studying Japanese culture and history, the reader is led to believe that the protagonist is telling the story herself. Memoirs of a Geisha transported me to a different era, where superficiality and beauty were more important traits for a women than practicality and intelligence.I enjoyed the writing style Golden utilized with this book, especially the analogies. Here are two I marked:"For it's one thing to find your secrets suddenly exposed, but when your own foolishness has exposed them... well, if I was prepared to curse anyone, it was myself... A shopkeeper who leaves his window open can hardly be angry at the rainstorm for ruining his wares.""Her skin was waxy-looking, and her features puffy. Or perhaps I was only seeing her that way. A tree may look as beautiful as ever; but when you notice the insects infecting it, and the tips of the branches that are brown from disease, even the trunk seems to lose some of its magnificence."A great read - I am so thankful for my friend who bought me this as a birthday present. Recommended to anyone remotely interested in Japanese culture or the life of a geisha.*cross-posted from my blog, the quiet voice.

mai ahmd

حين كنتُ أدرس التاريخ الجاهلي في شبة الجزيرة العربية كانت هناك فقرة تتكرر دائما عن وضع المرأة في المجتمع عبارة كنت أشعر أنهم يكررونها بشكل متعمد لإهانة جنس النساء كان المؤلف يصف معاملة الرجل المرأة على أساس إنها متاع أو ما شابه حين كنت أقرأ الجيشا رنّت تلك العبارة في ذهني مسترجعة قسوة الرجل ولامبالاته تجاه هذا الكائن الحي !أي وضع مأساوي كانت تعيشه المرأة في الهند أو الصين أو اليابان أو عند العرب أو غيرهم شرقا وغربا لم يكن يختلف !الأنثى كانت تدور دوما في فلك الرجل تموت و تحيا لأجله !الجيشا درّبت لتكون على هيئة لوحة جميلة يتبارز عليها الرجال وينالها أكثرهم سطوة وحظوة وذكاءا ..هذا الوضع المأساوي ونوعية التفكير الذكوري المتوارث بلا شك يثير الحزن والحقيقة إنني طوال قرائتي لتلك الرواية أتعجب كيف كانت النساء تبيع أنفسهن بهذه الطريقة المخجلة وعلى الرغم أن الأمر مازال يمارس بأشكال مختلفة وأكثر بساطة في الكثير من الأماكن التي يخيم عليها كابوس الفقر إلا أن ما يثير الدهشة كيف أن الجيشاوات خلقن لهم عالما خاصا به قوانين خاصة تسيرها نساء غلبت عليهم شهوة الطمع والسيطرة وانتفت معها كل معاني الإنسانية !يحكي آرثر غولدن قصة فتاة وشقيقتها والدها صياد كبير في السن بينما والدتها كانت تعاني من مرض عضال أفقدها القدرة على الحياة ومع الوقت تفقد فعاليتها ويرجع صوت الألم مجلجلا ليحرم بطلتنا الصغيرة من الشعور بالأمان ومرارة الإحساس بقرب النهاية وفقا لذلك لم يكن هناك من يرعى الطفلة بطلة القصة وشقيقتها المراهقة ، خرجت شيو لتحضر الدواء لوالدتها ولكنها أصيبت فأحضرها الصيادون إلى رب النعمة تاناكا ، اللقاء مع تاناكا هو الذي غير حياتها إلى إتجاه آخر تماما لم يكن يخطر في بال تلك الفتاة الصغيرة شيو كانت تتمتع بعينين رماديتين تسرق الأنظار على الرغم من إنها تسير حافية القدمين مبعثرة الشعر والملابس إلا إن السيد تاناكا انبهر بتلك العينين وبدأ يرى مستقبلا آخر سيعود عليه بالمال !ونظرا لظروف الفقر القاهرة والمستقبل الغامض الذي يحيط بالفتاتين اضطر الأب إلى بيع فتاتيه إلى السيد تاناكا الذي باعهم بدوره،، الصغيرة لأحد بيوتات تربية الجيشاوات والمراهقة إلى أحد بيوت الدعارة ومن هنا يبدأ مشوار عذابات الطفلة التي تضاءلت أحلامها في بيت ورعاية جيدة في معية السيد تاناكا آرثر غولدن درس أصول الفن الياباني وهذا الأمر إنعكس بشكل بارع في روايته الجيشا وفي توغله لعالم الجيشاوات الذي يقوم على تربية الفتاة لتكون راقصة وعازفة ومتذوقة للفن ومتحدثة وقادرة على خدمة الرجال في بيوتات الشاي الشهيرة التي يجتمع فيها رجالات المجتمع الراقي ، ما لفت نظري بل سلب لبي هذا الوصف الشائق والدقيق الذي اعتمده غولدن في وصف الكيمونوات وهو اللباس الذي كانت ترتديه الجيشاوات لجذب اهتمام الرجال ويمثل مبارزة حقيقية بين الجيشاوات للحصول على أفخر وأجمل أنواعها وكان غولدن يسترسل في الوصف حتى تعرف أن الكاتب نفسه مولع بهذا النوع من الفن فيصف القماش واللون والرسوم ويقوم بتحليل حركتها فتبدو وكأنها لوحة تضج بالحيوية والحياة ، لقد كان غولدن أيضا يتوغل في تفاصيل صغيرة كالصباغ الأبيض وطريقة طلاء الوجه والشفاه والعينين وكل هذه الأمورالتي تذكرك أن غولدن استغرق أعواما طوال ليكتب هذه الرواية كما فعل باموق في اسمي أحمر هذه الدقة وهذا الشعور بالمسئولية تجاه الكتابة ألا يجعلك تقف احتراما للكاتب خاصة إنه قرر الدخول إلى عالم لا ينتمي له في الحقيقة !إن الأمر لم يقتصر فقط على الدخول لذلك العالم ولكن بحبكة مشوقة لم تنتهي عند عذابات تلك الصغيرة مع منافستها التي لم تألو جهدا في زعزعة وجودها في الأوكيا ولا بفكرة الهرب التي ظلت تراودها للبحث عن حياة حرة وكريمة تلك الفترة المظلمة التي حولتها إلى خادمة مهانة حين تخلى عنها الأب والأخت برق أمل وحيد كان دافعا لها لكي تصبح الجيشا الأكثر شهرة في تاريخ الجيشاوات بل بهذا الأمل الذي يخلقه الحب ليصبح هو الدافع الرئيسي لإحتمال كل ما لا يمكن أن يحتمل ، إن اللقاءات التي جمعت بين سايوري ورجلها الوحيد كانت من أجمل المشاهد الدافئة والحميمية وإن كانت لقاءات متباعدة وقليلة وتحمل القليل من الأمل والكثير من اليأس ..كان غولدن متفوقا في رسم شخصياته الخيالية وكأنها شخصيات حقيقية ، إن تفرّد الكاتب جاء في المساحات التي قدمها لكل شخصية كتب عنها قد تكون صفحات كثيرة وقد تكون أسطر قليلة وعلى الرغم من أن سايوري هي الشخصية المحورية في هذه الرواية إلا أن حضور الشخصيات الأخرى كان متساويا من حيث قوة تأثيرها على مجريات السرد غولدن الأم التي تدير الأوكيا بجشعها وتسلطها وهاتسومومو المنافسة الجميلة التي ظهرت كالأنثى الحية تبدل جلدها حسب ما تقتضيه مصالحها الشخصية أحببت جدا طريقة رسم هذه الشخصية المتحركة حيوية مجنونة مليئة بالغرابة والإدهاش , الفارس النبيل الرئيس , البارون القبيح المنفوخ كبالون والدكتور الذي تفوح من أسطر غولدن حين يتحدث عنه رائحة المستشفيات ومامها الأنثى الجميلة العاقلة نموذج للجيشا المثال التي كانت تزاحم بنضج الأنثى ذات التجارب ونابو آه من تلك الشخصية إنها بالفعل من أروع وأعظم شخصيات الرواية على غرابته وتصرفاته العنيفة التي كانت ترافق صفات أخرى نبيلة لا أدري لم إستدعت هذه الرواية سيرة تلك النساء الصينيات ( بجعات برية ) كنتُ أفكر في الرابط بين الروايتين ربما هو عالم الشرق أو ربما هي الأنثى المهانة ولعلها العذابات التي عانتها الصغيرة أو قد يكون ذلك النوع المتفرد من المتعة والتشويق الذي حصدته في الكتابين عن عالمين مختلفين عني تماما !

Hannah

This book was well written, interesting, tasteful, and informative. It seems like the author really did his research. The culture of this book is what interested me the most. The role women played and their place in society. Although this is merely "based on actual events", I kind of took a lot of it as what really went on. I've always thought of a Geisha like a prostitute, not as a companion/entertainer. I never thought about it being a career that they would have had special schools for young girls to attend. I can't imagine being born into that life where from an early age that is what you are destined to do. But culturally, it was so glamorous and it was like wanting to be famous.Coming from her background, I can see why Sayuri would aspire to be a Geisha and feel it was out of reach. She was such a diverse character for me. I loved seeing her grow up and encounter all the human emotions and endure through them. It seemed as though she was a victim of cruelty, jealousy, and misery throughout the book, but in the end beat them all. She was a good person and I respected that she didn't let how people treated her affect who she became.

Ellie

This is a spectacular must read novel. The writing style is exceptionally beautiful and the descriptions are so vivid that you find yourself successfully transported to 1930’s Japan, and into the lives of the geishas, their traditions and culture. All the characters were beautifully crafted, and the story was captivating and well structured. I fell utterly in love with this novel and with Sayuri. This tale has drama, elegance, romance and is completely and utterly inspiring.

Arah-Lynda

A beautiful, poingnant story that is so incredibly, lyrically captivating you are seduced from the very first word. An absolute work of art, each page overflows with beautiful, sensual, evocative images. Such is the skill and authority of Golden's writing, I feel as though I have spent hours, being entertained by the most gifted of all Geisha. Utterly Satisfying. I want to read it again for the very first time!

Liz Lynch

Like eating fancy dessert at a gourmet restaurant, Memoirs of a Geisha is beautiful, melts lightly off the tongue and will be forgotten shortly after it's done. The language is strikingly lovely, and Golden paints a remarkable picture of a time and place. If you're looking to learn something deep about the psychology of Japanese culture, or meet nuanced characters, then I'd steer you elsewhere. The story only skims the top of the more complicated aspects of a Japan in decline, focusing mostly on a genteel lifestyle that probably seems more appealing from the outside. There's a way in which the book, written by a man and a westerner, is slightly fetishistic, but less so than you might imagine.Another reader suggested that perhaps the superficiality of the story is intentional, and that the book, in a way, resembles a geisha. Beautiful and eager to please, yet too distant to really learn much from and ultimately little more than a beautiful, well-crafted object to be appreciated. If that's the case, Arthur Golden is remarkably clever, and I applaud him. If it's not the case, the book remains very pretty and an easy read.

Denise

** spoiler alert ** Read it in four days, couldn't put it down. I had to keep remembering that it wasn't 100% true. But I think that it was as close as we could have gotten. Mineko - The geisha that Golden interviewed did a great job on educating him on the way of a Geisha according to a lecture he gave. I wasn't as shocked as everyone else seemed to be about the way things were in Japan. Women were not permitted to think or act for themselves. And just like everywhere else, there really wasn't any use for a daughter except to marry her off to a husband with money in hopes of securing future for the daughter's parents and family. There was also a strict code of honor and respect among geishas and the Japanese culture. That is what prevented Sayuri from acting out on Hatsumomo and why she couldn't reveal her feelings nor could the chairman disrespect his friend to be with Sayuri. I admired that about The Chairman and Sayuri, they did what they knew was right and did not follow their feelings. In the end, look where it got them. They were happy, growing old together, probably had a child, she lived peacefully and very well in New York taken care of until the day she died. I wonder what would have happened to Sayuri if she acted out and exchanged Hatsumomo's make-up with rat poison. More than likely, she would have been thrown out of the house and made into a prostitute until she died. In the end, Hatsumomo ended up suffering because she didn't follow the code of honor. Also, fate punished Sayuri for disobeying, when she tried to escape and fell off the roof and I'm sure that had an effect on her future decision makings.I wish that Sayuri was able to reunite with her sister but in a way I'm glad that they didn't and avoided the typical Hollywood ending. Sayuri reminded me a lot of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. She had her own way of seeing things but they were always clever and accurate. I loved the part when she says that her the back of her father's head was as old and his face but it was smooth like an egg, not deep set in wrinkles. There's living proof in every bald head of why stress and worry creates wrinkles in the face.Other characters: The Doctor - warped and twisted at least he was useful in help Mameha win the bet against Mother and secured Sayuri place in the house.The Baron - Hated that he hurt Mameha by going after Sayuri - His disrespectfulness got him in the end.The Chairman - A man that believed in honor and respect above all. And he was rewarded for it until his death.Nobu - Despite his rudeness and abruptness, he did care for Sayuri and made sure she was safe. I wish we learned what happened to him in the end but based on the pattern of the story those who lived with honor, died with honor.Mameha - Loved her, she was smart, sweet, strong - she didn't let anyone push her around and her subtleness was just as effective in getting what she wants as any man. Actually it was better because no one realized that they helped her so they never came back to be repaid.Pumpkin - Started out sweet and nice but finally acted out after years of betrayal. She was abused and used by Hatsumomo and the household, lied to about being adopted, forced to prostitution during the war. If Sayuri wasn't so wrapped up in her own issues she might have been able to see past herself and try to help Pumpkin more. Despite Pumpkin's betrayal to Sayuri, I hope she went against the pattern of the book and lived the rest of her years happily. Probably the smartest, after all, up until the end, Sayuri thought that Pumpkin made a mistake in bringing the Chairman to the theater instead of Nobu. Never thought that Pumpkin did it on purpose.http://www.randomhouse.com/vintage/re... - The official site about the bookhttp://www.theherald.org/issues/03089... - Recap of a lecture Arthur Golden gavehttp://www.cnn.com/books/dialogue/990... - Interview with Arthur Golden about the book.

Marianne

I read this lovely novel on the plane home from Japan, finishing it upon my return to the US. I was surprised - given that it was written by a Western man - how accurately the Japanese culture was portrayed (at least from the limited knowledge I gleaned during my short time living there, and given that it was set in a time when Japan was, in many ways, very different from today).Perhaps it was because I'd just left this beautiful country, but I was clearly able to imagine the vivid depictions described by Chiyo/Sayuri. When I was in Kyoto, my friends and I were lucky enough to see a maiko-san walking back to her okiya (a relatively rare event these days), and I will forever associate my memory of that elegant young girl with this book.All of that said, if the author did violate a confidentiality agreement with his primary source, it is abhorrent that he did so. He allegedly also embellished the truth of certain aspects of life as a geisha, which is disappointing; and yet many authors take artistic license. Whether 100% accurate or not, the story is poetic as a work of fiction.

Jessica

I can't remember what made me pick up this book -- it must have been that edition's cover, which was highly gorgeous: bright bright white with big red geisha lips. I think part of me wanted to be above this kind of thing, but you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it. Memoirs of a Geisha was a fairytale in novel form, and completely absorbing even when it got slightly ridiculous. It's one of those chocolate cake kind of books, descriptively rich, demanding your full attention and almost too sweet but ultimately a great, sticky pleasure.I finished it one night in a loud, fetive metal bar, and if that doesn't recommend a story to you, I don't know what would. It was the dead of winter, Lindsey was visiting from California, and we were really going nuts out there in Brooklyn, since we hadn't seen each other in ages. Although we were both enjoying the attention, finally I had to leave Lindsey alone at a table with about six enthusiastic long-haired, thickly-tattooed sweethearts while I crept off to a dim corner and finished the last few chapters of this book. Seriously, Lindsey took a picture of me crouched at a table by myself, where every once in awhile someone in a tight vinyl bondage outfit or gory tee shirt would come up and demand to know what I was reading. Finally I wrapped it up and returned to the socializing, and the rest of the night? Well, that's a story of its own, and not a chocolate cake one.

Jen

My friend Robin sent this book to me shortly after I moved to Tokyo. It was hard to find English-language books at first, so she sent me a couple to keep me reading. I probably would not have been interested in Memoirs of a Geisha had I not just moved to Japan. But I found it to be one of the best books I've ever read.When I first started reading the book, I wanted to see what Sayuri looked like, so I did a Google search. It was then that I realized the book I was reading was not a biography, but fiction. Had me fooled! Still, it's easy to imagine that it is a true story. Even though I've only lived in Tokyo for about two months, I see how all of this story could be completely true.I love Golden's characters! Pumpkin is so funny. Some of the lines he gives her crack me up! And Sayuri, of course, is an incredible character. Through her stories I laughed and even cried a couple of times. The stories themselves were so plain, just as Japanese people truly speak. The fact that an American man wrote this (and I believe it was his first novel) still amazes me. You'd swear it was really the memoir of a geisha.Several nights in a row I stayed up reading until 5am. I just couldn't get enough of this book. I guess partly because of the story, but also in part because there's a little bit of Sayuri in each of us.

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