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Memoirs Of A Geisha Paperback – 4 Jun 1998

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Frequently Bought Together

Memoirs Of A Geisha + Memoirs of a Geisha [DVD] + Geisha of Gion: The True Story of Japan's Foremost Geisha: The Memoir of Mineko Iwasaki
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099771519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099771517
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (518 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

According to Arthur Golden's absorbing first novel, the word "geisha" does not mean "prostitute," as Westerners ignorantly assume--it means "artisan" or "artist." To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. After earning degrees in Japanese art and history from Harvard and Columbia--and an M.A. in English--he met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, chiefly relying on the geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who spent years charming the very rich and famous.

The result is a novel with the broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen's intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. Readers experience the entire life of a geisha, from her origins as an orphaned fishing-village girl in 1929 to her triumphant auction of her mizuage (virginity) for a record price as a teenager to her reminiscent old age as the distinguished mistress of the powerful patron of her dreams. We discover that a geisha is more analogous to a Western "trophy wife" than to a prostitute--and, as in Austen, flat-out prostitution and early death is a woman's alternative to the repressive, arcane system of courtship. In simple, elegant prose, Golden puts us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumour spread by a rival "as cruel as a spider."

Golden's web is finely woven, but his book has a serious flaw: the geisha's true romance rings hollow--the love of her life is a symbol, not a character. Her villainous geisha nemesis is sharply drawn, but she would be more so if we got a deeper peek into the cause of her motiveless malignity--the plight all geisha share. Still, Golden has won the triple crown of fiction: he has created a plausible female protagonist in a vivid, now-vanished world and he gloriously captures Japanese culture by expressing his thoughts in authentic Eastern metaphors.

Review

"An epic tale and a beautiful evocation of a rapidly vanishing world" (The Times)

"The sort of novel that novel-lovers yearn for, which is to say, so convincing that while reading it you become transported to another time, another place, and feel you are listening and seeing with someone else's ears and eyes" (Margaret Forster)

"Endlessly fascinating...a narrative that is both gripping and beautifully paced...a wonderful read" (Observer)

"Sayuri's memoirs reveal Golden to have great gifts of imaginative empathy...fascinating" (Independent)

"This is one of those rare novels that evokes a vanished world with absolute conviction and in every detail... This book is exceptional" (Daily Mail)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Emma Simpson on 12 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is probably one of the best I've ever read. It allows an insight into a culture that isn't really understood in Western society, and shows what life is actually like for a geisha of Gion. It opens your eyes to another, completely different world and does it in a way that makes you think about it from an objective point of view, rather than comparing it to our lives and culture.
Reading Memoirs of a Geisha is entertaining, funny and thought-provoking, often sad but always heart warming - despite some of the customs/events that would be shocking in the UK, you're never tempted to judge Sayuri (the main character, the geisha) for her actions. Instead you live through it with her and understand what and why she did.
This book is inspirational in that Sayuri goes through so much just to survive, and yet the way the book is written lets us see that it's not unusual for a geisha to go through even more than she did.
I would recommend Memoirs of a Geisha even to people who usually like a lighter read, because even though it's sometimes sad and makes you think a lot, it's also funny and you really feel for Sayuri. A brilliant and utterly engaging read.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Helen Pattison on 4 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
I used to laugh at people who would say "god i cant put this book down" but when i read this i honestly couldn't. The book practically transports you into this magical world of Japan where you get a vivid insight into the world of geisha's. I have never felt so passionate about a book before and after this my whole aspect on life changed. I may sound really over the top but;Oh my god what a read!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
The novel is a fantastic, enchanting read. The author's narrative is flows easily and never fails to amaze with its sheer poetry, vastness and breath of feeling. Golden tells an enchantic tale, a novel that is definitely one of my favourites. It is colourful, vivid, passionate, mysterious and almost magical in the sense that it completely absorbs the reader into a story that no one else could have told so well. Definitely worth reading!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By NeuroSplicer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
If you have only experienced the movie, let me make it as clear as possible: you have barely scraped the surface. This a very rich and rewarding novel that will absorb you into another time, a far away land and a completely alien mentality. Welcome to the Floating World of the Geishas in its twilight.

This is loosely based on the true story of Mineko Iwasaki (whose much more accurate autobiography is also available under the title Geisha: A Life) presented in the form of a novel by a brilliant Arthur Golden (too bad he did not follow up his success with a second novel).

Japan in the years following WWI was a country in transition. The old ways were on their way out yet they have a way of soothing the soul of any nation, especially one found itself caught in limbo, between progress and tradition. In this transitional world Sayuri is offered the chance to become a Geisha. The unique color of her eyes, her patience and artistic abilities soon propel her to the position of the most famous Geisha of them all. But one should always be wary of what he wishes for.

Fame and success are never a guarantee for personal happiness. Predictably, Sayuri's love story is bittersweet and has many false starts. In fear of spoilers, I shall only say that life is never boring.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By S.C. on 10 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
Memoirs of a Geisha is the perfect novel. It is the sort of book that only comes by every so often and in this one you will unfold a hidden world of beauty. The story begins in the 1920's but the course of the novel is set over a period of many years, which include those of the second world war. Chiyo-chan is a nine year old girl from a small fishing village, her life so far has been simple and happy, until her mother grows terminally and eventually fatally ill. No longer able to cope, Chiyo's father arranges for her

and her sister Satsu to be taken to a distant region of Japan, Gion one of the many Geisha districts. On arrival they are seperated and Chiyo is sent to the Nitta okiya to become a Geisha. But the life of a Geisha proves to be very difficult for Chiyo who later becomes the celebrated Geisha, Sayuri.

This book is one of the best i have ever read, the tale becomes so absorbing that Chiyo's life becomes yours for the duration of the novel. Along the way you will meet characters such as the mischeivous Pumpkin, the greedy Mother of the Nitta okiya, the Beautiful Mamaeha-san and the malicious Hatsumomo.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lozza on 31 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
I only picked this book up as it was one of the '1001 books to read before you die' and i've heard some great reviews of it. I don't know whether i'm too judgmental or i was expecting too much, but i was pretty disappointed.

Ive never read a book that starts so well and ends so badly. The first half - up until the war - is well written, dramatic, emotional and exciting. However, after the war and after Hatsumomo leaves it disintegrates and i found where previously i hadn't been able to put it down, i was becoming less and less inclined to pick it up. I increasingly found Sayuri harder and harder to like and therefor care about, and the trite 'happily ever after' ending left me feeling cheated. A novel that has the potential to be really great but ends up as mediocre.
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