Lesley Downer has written an instant classic on the world of the geisha. Downer's thoroughly researched work is a masterful blend of the autobiographical novel, history, social analysis and sheer entertainment. This is a book to be savoured and appreciated by academics and the general reading public alike. I work and live in Kyoto, a city where I have spent a total of eleven years teaching in various universities. More to the point, I live in an apartment building in Gion, the heart of Kyoto's geisha district--a building where geisha and maiko (trainee geisha) live. When, like only this evening, I come across one of these mysterious creatures as they leave the building to get into a waiting taxi and head off to a local tea house to delight some lucky clients with their beauty and artistry, I feel elated because there is something magical about a geisha's appearence. Such a chance encounter, I may add, is an event that 99% of the Japanese population will never experience. Now, thanks to Lesley Downer's wonderful book, I, the native inhabitants of this land (this work, I am sure, will be translated into Japanese very soon), and readers all around the world can view and admire a very detailed picture which shows us where geisha originate, what place they occupy in contemporary Japanese society, and where their collective destiny may take them as Japan enters an uncertain economic future and an era of rapid social change.