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Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Seduced the West [Paperback]

Lesley Downer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Feb 2004
Madame Sadayakko was the ultimate geisha, so exquisite that the prime minister of the day paid a fortune to deflower her. But she was a rebel who wanted to carve her own path in life. In 1899 she married a subversive avant garde actor and, with a troupe of other actors, they set out on the first ever tour of the West by a Japanese theatre company.

Sadayakko took to the stage and became an instant star. She danced for the American President and for the Prince of Wales in London, Picasso painted her, Gide swooned over her and Rodin admired her. But back in Japan, she suffered the stigma of being an ex-geisha and an actor and was forced, in the end, to make a terrible choice - between respectability and love.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (2 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755310322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755310326
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 328,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lesley Downer's mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring, and she lived there for some fifteen years.

She has written many books about the country and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, and Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, and has presented television programmes on Japan for Channel 4, the BBC and NHK.

She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and still makes sure she goes to Japan every year.

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Product Description


‘An extraordinary adventure story’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘Downer is an agile and evocative writer who treats this sensational tale with consistent elegance’ -- The Times

About the Author

Lesley Downer lived in Japan for more than ten years and speaks fluent Japanese. She has written many books about Japan and its culture, presented television programmes on the subject for both Channel 4 and the BBC and she contributes a weekly column to The Scotsman called 'Postcard from Japan'.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A World as Theatre 13 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Lesley Downer has written a real page turner. With exquisite prose, she introduces us to Madame Sadayyako, a Geisha who became Japan's first actress, who disappeared into the shadows of history. But at the turn of the twentieth century Madame Sadayyako was world-wide known and touched the lives of Picasso, Rodin, Gide, the Tsar of Russia, the Prince of Wales, President McKinley of the USA, and Puccini, for whom she was the model for Madame Butterfly. Downer has the background to make this episode in Japanese history come alive, having lived in Japan for over a decade. Putting herself back into Madame Sadayyako's era is no easy task and required complete submersion in Japanese culture. The photographs are striking and go far toward bringing Madame Sadayyako's fascinating life into sharp focus. We are in the hands of an expert. Downer describes sumptuously the sights, sounds and customs of an era gone by, which deserves to be remembered for its effect on the Western World. I recommend Downer's book highly. It is in that rare category of a good read - and a rattling good story at that, from which one can learn also a great deal.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! 29 May 2007
The tale presented to us here is a fascinating one, written in such a way as to leave you hanging off Downer's every word. She wastes not one, and the prose is highly evocative of the period. Madame Sadayakko comes across as a feisty character, and the author gives the answers to every question one could possibly have about her. Highly recommended, to both those who know much and those just starting out in "the flower and willow world"!

Unfortunately, the reviewer below has confused Lesley Downer with Liza Dalby, who DID become the only (to date) non-Japanese Geisha in Japan. Do not, however, think that Downer does not know her stuff! For those who are in doubt, not only should this book prove she does, but they might try reading her fascinating novel "Geisha: the Secret History of a Vanishing World" - a superlative introduction to the Geisha world and how they live day to day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strong life 26 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was really touched by this book. At the end I thought 'How many of us are living lives that will make history?' It is well written and loved the deep haiku poems at the beginning of each section. Through this biography I understood better the place of Japanese women in society in the past, and their moral obligations.
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