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

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.

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!

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 !

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.

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.

T.J.

Damn if you aren't one of the most problematic things I've ever read, Memoirs of a Geisha.Like much of non-Asian America, I was swept up in the delight of reading this book in 2000. I was fifteen and precocious, and the narrative was arresting. I couldn't put the book down. I wrote this in 2000:"Golden has hit pay dirt with this masterpiece. An insightful, curious, and caring look into the mysterious world of geisha, Arthur Golden peels away the ignorance and labeling that westerners have covered the secretive Japanese profession. Although it sinks at times into a near melodramatic prose, the book's protagonist is interesting, insightful, and enjoyable. Her witty anecdotes and thoughtful mannerisms in speaking make Memoirs of a Geisha a delightful and unstoppable read."Then I got older, went to college and graduate school, and developed a critical, thinking eye.And I'm mad at myself.insightful? Really? God, I was naive. This novel, while entertaining is so problematic I rarely have time to descend into my criticism. It continues the Orientalism that Edward Said loathed so very much; rather than "skillfully entering" the world of a Japanese woman, it apes her identity, and ultimately deprives her of a voice, creating a sort of Orientalist imagination for us to enjoy without ever really seeing her. The book is still engaging as a narrative, but the sappy ending, the frankly sexist portrayals at some points, and Sayuri's outright inability to identify outside of her Chairman is rather frightening. It serves to objectify fetishism at its worst. Yet I can only give you three stars, because I'm still partly under your spell, Golden. Damn.

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.

Erin

oh blargh. you people.this is my re-review of memoirs. a remix review, if you will. review revitalized. memories of "memoirs". ooh that last one was kinda catchy...OKAY. on with things. reviewing and... such.i seem to find this book in the most unusual of places. before i explain aforementioned "oh, blargh. you people", you must know: the first time i discovered this book, i was in a used bookstore in Laos. some of you are well traveled, perhaps you've been. Vientiane. right next to the hungarian bakery in the center square that has a large sign on top featuring a jolly looking fat man whose smile has faded away a bit under the sun. yes? ok then.now, mind you, in this bookstore, there weren't very many books in english that weren't written by someone named "danielle steele". which reminds me, i must look this person up. i see her name everywhere. thousands of abandoned danielle steeles, stacked up in bookstores around the world, it's simply amazing. like a parasitic algae that thrives on dusty bookshelves and healthy, decent novels, suddenly appearing when you least expect it and obviously multiplying until it chokes out good literature. it makes me feel like a gardener every time i visit such a store, plucking shakespeares and silverstiens out of the shadows of the steeles and putting them back in their rightful place in the sun....that was a good one too. i think someone should take note of this. while you're at it, take down the recipe. it's TWO parts jack to ONE part dr. pepper. you may title it: recipe to success. under notes, please help me remember, perhaps a little notation like: "found to bring out the ernest hemingway of book reviewing". ah, goodreads on a saturday night. back to the review.here's what i wrote the last time. warning: it's kind of boring. you have permission to use the time you might have spent reading the next two paragraphs finding more dr. pepper."i read this while traveling through remote parts of southeast asia, so it should speak volumes that i was not distracted from this story in the least. i even rigged my flashlight to a seat during a midnight bus so that i could finish the part with the bidding war. i studied japan a lot in high school, but parts of this world were still knew to me, the details were so many. very good read, very culturally involved."OMG IT'S BORING ME AND I DIDN'T EVEN RE-READ IT, I JUST SKIMMED.This book was freaking awesome. Yeah, you know it was. You know why it's awesome, and you came here to sulk? Yeah, I said sulk. Stop looking at the screen all cross eyed that way. I re-read it the other day. Founda copy for fifty cents at goodwill (buried, i might add, under four multicolored danielle steeles). and after i read it, and came back to goodreads, and read other reviews, i decided it needs to be said:It's awesome because you couldn't stop thinking about it after you had read it. Yeah. A couple years after you read it, in fact. Every so often, perhaps for no reason at all, you got a glimpse of something that reminded you of the different layers of a kimono, or the pickled radish that a certain geisha liked to snack while reading her tabloids. you can't put a finger on it, but stacked in the thousands of memories that make up your soul, you count among the most satisfying the story of a geisha and a chairman. you would never, ever admit it, but you like this book because it has a happy ending. a nice ending. not perfect, like a fairy tale, but nice nonetheless. the geisha herself taught you that there are no perfect, happy endings, but that one can find happiness anyway.and you are angry that a man wrote it.oh blargh, you people. catty little comments like you are seriously pissed that golden put "memoir" in the title. like you didn't read "dear america diaries" and "american girl stories" when you were little and let your imagination pretend these girls like you were real.the reason people write stories is because they have a story to tell. and the best kind of writer is the person who has a story inside them that burns so brightly, and tugs at their soul nightly (OMG i am also rhyming. re-pour, please) that they toil over it, inject their passion and blood and sweat and tears, right into the pages.and golden has that passion. come on. the way the book reads is pure poetry. i thank my lucky stars i had an english teacher in high school who took us through 4 weeks of japanese poetry. how beautiful golden's descriptions. how perfectly crafted his comparisons. how touching and absorbing his characters. how riveting the plot. he clearly did his research, and styled the syntax and even the thought process of his characters as closest he could to the time they existed.he so obviously wanted us to love his geisha the way he did.and you criticize, like you weren't completely wound up in who would receive suyuri's virginity? like you didn't cringe when you discovered what became of pumpkin? like you didn't feel every betrayal and victory in the fantastic little world of the okiya golden created?you are simply angry she isn't real, not a flesh and blood soul who can return your adoration. oh. and--- did i mention this before? it was written by a man. a white dude. who couldn't POSSIBLY know about geisha. here's the thing, you weird feminist people who seem to be so hung up on golden "sashaying about, trying to pass off his novel as a memoir". obviously, if we were out, face to face, i would buy you one of these marvelously delicious concoctions i am sipping and we would duke it out like civilized bookworms. however, we lack a proper venue, so i've gotta say it here, without the benefit of you being slightly marinated (in order to better see my point). what would you rather have? a hundred danielle steeles, pooped out so rapidly they cannot be distinguished even by titles, haunting you at the bottom of every bargain bin in the world....?or the simply marvelously written, carefully crafted (if not, in fact, true) story of a woman (not just a geisha) who happens to be created by a man?that's what i thought. i'll drink to that.

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.

Mashael Alamri

حينما تجبرنا الحياة على سلوك طريق واحد وتختفي الخيارات نكون مثل الذي تربطه الأيام بخيط وتجره بإتجاه معين دون أن يكون له قرار سوى التأمل لكل ما يمر من جانبه التجربه الإنسانية تأسرني أيً كانت فالحديث عن حياة بآئسه تترك فيّ الكثير من الأثر إستوقفتني الرواية كنت أتأمل كثيراً كيف لطفله أن تنتزع من مكانها وتباع كيف لها أن تتدبر أمرها ؟ ربما يكون الفقر وخوف والدها عليها هو مادعاه للموافقه على بيعها ربما فعل ذلك من يئسه ,لكن الوحده التي إستحالت حياتها إليها قاتله , لكن شيو -شان حولت الوحده وتبعاتها لحافز للنجاح والوصول في مقايسي أنها نجحت وخرجت من حياة اللاشيء ,هذا ماخطر ببالي لحظة إنتهائي منها !

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.

Alena

Golden earns points for creativity, but loses them for inaccuracy.The "memoir" of the elegant Sayuri, whose life as a high-class geisha is disrupted by the outbreak of war, is written in an intriguing and alluring monologue -- purportedly narrated by Sayuri herself to the author -- that pulls the reader in from the very beginning. Unfortunately, the real narrator, Arthur Golden, took some dramatic liberties with history and cultural practices, and the fallacious elements sprinkled throughout detract from a potentially fascinating story. (This may not present a major issue to a reader who has no prior knowledge of Japanese culture, but such a reader should also be warned NOT to take this book as a factual representation of life in Japan.)Additionally, although the narrative starts strong, it loses momentum partway through the story. By the time the inevitable tremors of World War II began to shake the cultural bedrock of Japan, I was already beginning to lose interest in the artificial suspense.Overall, the book is written fairly well, and I can see why some readers would like it... but even while I was reading, I couldn't help feeling that I should have enjoyed it more.

Heather

I love it when a book I’ve been super excited to read turns out to be a new favorite! That doesn’t seem to happen nearly as often as I’d like, but was definitely the case for me with Memoirs of a Geisha. This was such a beautiful story and I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. It had such a soft, gentle feeling atmosphere, and yet it was also intense, albeit a quiet intensity, if that makes sense. By the halfway point, I had the hardest time tearing myself away from it and would sneak in every spare minute I could to read more. It speaks volumes for a book if I’m able to tune out all the craziness around me (hello…3 and 9 year old boys!) and be totally immersed in it, despite all the background noise. And Memoirs succeeded in doing that! I know next to nothing about Japanese culture, so this was a really new, insightful experience for me. I found that I had some misconceptions about the role of a geisha. That whole world is quite intriguing and I was surprised to learn all that is involved in becoming one. I especially loved reading the descriptions for the exquisite kimono they wear and the process they go through to dress and do their hair and makeup. So much time and effort is poured into their appearance, and the end result is stunning! I loved so many things about this book…the way it was written, the overall feel of the story, and then of course, the story itself. It flowed along so smoothly and beautifully, and carried me right along with it. I enjoyed so much listening to Sayuri tell us her story, and going on that journey with her back through her life. I couldn’t have been happier with how her story played out in the end, and I even read the last part of it through teary eyes. This was a wonderful book, and one that I know I’ll read again someday.

midnightfaerie

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden was phenomenal. One of my book clubs picked it this month and I just saw the selection and realized I owned it and it was already on my list but didn't think I'd have time to read it in the next two weeks. But just for the heck of it, I picked it up and decided to just read the first chapter to see how I liked it. It took me less than three days to finish it. I absolutely loved this book. It was well written and gave an eloquent and sometime graphic portrayal of the lifestyle of a geisha. It was fascinating to learn about the culture through the eyes of this young girl. The way Golden describes the Japanese world is easy to picture and completely draws you in. You find yourself rooting for this girl as her life hits one roadblock after another. His beautiful descriptions of the setting and clothes is enough of a reason to read this book, but it offers so much more as well. I do think this is classic material. Although published not too long ago I think it has the potential to be around for awhile, therefore falling under the longevity category. I also think it's an original concept. Many books touch upon the culture and classes of the Japanese, but I'm unaware of one that writes about the taboo intimacies of a geisha. If there are, I'd have to read them, but I think this book is original enough to be the leader of that group. I also think it has the magic factor. The descriptions of the era, the dress, and especially the differences in facial features of the characters pull you into the story effortlessly. I highly recommend it and believe it's a classic, if not now, then one in the making. As for the movie, I have mixed opinions. When I first saw it years ago before reading the book, I thought it was lovely and moving. Since I just finished the book I decided to watch it again. Once again, I feel like a movie pales in comparison to the book, lacking in definition and finesse. Yes, it's good for what it is, and the actors they choose to play the parts did exceedingly well, but I found myself dictating constantly to my husband who was watching with me, parts that were never explained. Things like why they spark a flint at a geisha's back before they leave the okiya or why the girls had they hands frozen numb while they practiced the shamisen. To me this was imperative in experiencing the richness that all the culture had to offer. But alas, it's the downfall of a movie representing a book. They can't put everything in so you just have to enjoy it for what it is. That being the case, it was an adequate representation of the book, with talented actors playing the parts well. ClassicsDefined.com

Madeline

A beautiful story that explores the secret world of the Japanese geisha (if you think that geisha = prostitue, you need to read this book just to learn how wrong that assumption is), told in the style of an interview with a woman named Sayuri Nitta, who used to be one of the most famous geisha in Kyoto. My favorite parts of the story were the detailed descriptions of geisha beauty rituals (they wax their hair and sleep with their necks resting on wooden blocks so they don't mess up the hairstyles) and tradtions (when a geisha leaves her okiya, or geisha house, a spark is struck against her back for good luck). The descriptions of the kimono worn by Sayuri and the other geisha in the book are also gorgeous. The only part of this book that I didn't love was Sayuri's constant adoration of a man know only as the Chairman. Sayuri meets him when she's eight, and because he's kind to her and buys her a flavored ice, she decides that she's going to become a geisha just so she can meet him again. Did I mention that the chairman was about forty at the time? I didn't have a lot of faith in the level of Sayuri's love for him, and just couldn't wrap my head around the idea of an eight-year-old girl falling in love with a man more than thirty years her senior. UPDATE: So, I wrote this review when I was in high school and didn't know much about the actual writing process of this book. Turns out Arthur Golden didn't actually do that much real research and had a bad habit of just making shit up. This book apparently pissed off a real geisha so much that she wrote her own book in response. I'm writing this update now because today in my literature class we were talking about how we all basically read only British and American books, and this one girl starts talking about how she used to only read American books and then one day read Memoirs of a Geisha and it just, like, totally opened her eyes to other cultures. And everyone is looking at her like she just said that watching The Godfather helped her understand Italian history. So basically what I'm saying is, don't come to this story looking for historical accuracy. It's still a good story, just not necessarily an accurate one. Think of it as fiction, and you'll be fine.

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