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Memoirs Of A Geisha [Paperback]

Arthur Golden
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (444 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

4 Jun 1998

This story is a rare and utterly engaging experience. It tells the extraordinary story of a geisha -summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan's dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation.

A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Her memoirs conjure up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the land's most powerful men.

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
Price For All Three: 15.55

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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: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (444 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,345 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.


"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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The homeless eel 11 Jan 2006
This book is a very sad story about the selling of children into the sex trade.
Arthur Golden doesn’t dodge the essential points of the geisha business: the investors in human beings (‘education’, kimonos, make-up) want their money back with a profit and this end justifies all means (torture).
In this book, a big chunk of this investment is paid back by selling the geisha’s mizuage (her deflowering) for the colossal sum of more than a year’s earnings of a labourer.
Poor parents were forced to sell their daughters for sheer survival: ‘We become geisha because we have no other choice.’ A geisha’s life is governed by resignation and fatalism: ‘we viewed ourselves as pieces of clay that forever show the fingerprints of everyone who has touched them.’
The main goal of every geisha is to become a kept woman, the mistress of a wealthy man (her danna), for without a danna ‘a geisha is like a stray cat on the street without a master to feed it. ‘
But, ‘a geisha who expects understanding from her danna is like a mouse expecting sympathy from a snake. Geishas have to keep their true self concealed.’
The central issue is ‘sex for money’. The central member is a man’s ‘homeless eel’. Geishas are there to be ‘consumed’.
Of course, there is fierce competition between them. They all have to pay back their huge debts.
This book says also a lot about the Japanese society, where wealthy people pay a fortune for deflowering virgins, who are sold out of necessity by their poor parents.
Arthur Golden wrote a realistic and moving story using expertly thriller elements.
Not to be missed.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing 12 Jan 2006
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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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars mesmerising 4 Nov 2005
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greastest books 11 Mar 2006
Stunningly written Memoirs of a Geisha is a masterpiece. If you've seen the film but havn't read the book you must as the book is 1000 times better.You are intrested all the way through the book is perfect for Japan lovers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 28 Feb 2011
By Sally h
Format:Kindle Edition
Read this book quite a while ago but absolutely loved it.
Drawn in to the story and characters straight from the start and was swept along to the end.
Do read the book before seeing the film as the book is so much better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing fantastic magic 13 Jan 2006
By A Customer
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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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey into an altogether different world 10 Jun 2006
By S.C.
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly magical
I was transported into a reverie by the beautiful language and culture of the Geisha and could not believe all the new interest in Japan this provoked in me. Read more
Published 8 hours ago by beauty addict
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking
Wonderful book gloriously written, at times I felt I was living the life of the Geisha in the story. Arthur Golden's knowledge of Japan & life of the Geisha is vast. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Helen Andreou
5.0 out of 5 stars Good reason it is a bestseller
A beautiful, sad , evocative, exciting and intriguing novel which engaged me from start to finish about a nine year old Japanese child, Chiyo Sakamoto , from a poor fishing... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Gary Selikow
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it!
I could not put down this book it transports you to 1930s Japan and is a informative insight to Japanese culture.
Published 11 days ago by Anjie
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful tale
The book gives you a true insight in the world of geishas. It was compelling to read and a great finish
Published 27 days ago by JITESH G MISTRY
5.0 out of 5 stars Read before
I have read this book before and love it. Lost my copy (someone borrowed it and didn't give it back) have been waiting for it come come onto kindle. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Pauline Ketley
3.0 out of 5 stars Over rated in my opinion
I couldn't forget that I was reading a book written from a Geisha's perspective that was actually written by a western man.
Published 1 month ago by Hannah Griffin
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Good book with an interesting story however there was so much descriptive language it took a long time to read when the story could have easily been condensed. Read more
Published 2 months ago by P J Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars Eels and caves
Without a doubt, the best book I have ever read. I never thought I'd enjoy a book which wasn't set in Westeros as much as this one. It is incredible. Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of a Geisha
Delightfully written and with great love. An insight into a world which I never knew existed. Encapsulating in its simplicity
Published 2 months ago by Margaret Stenton
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