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Memoirs Of A Geisha: Vintage 21 (Vintage 21st Anniv Editions) [Paperback]

Arthur Golden
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (456 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Aug 2011 Vintage 21st Anniv Editions
This is a seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, which tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan's most dramatic history, it uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930s, where 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; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures 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 most powerful men.

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  • Click here for the Memoirs of a Geisha reading guide. The guide includes sections on the book and author Arthur Golden, a list of his other works and suggestions for further reading.

Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099563088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099563082
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (456 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 709,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The first thing you notice about the audio version of Memoirs of a Geisha is that Arthur Golden's 428-page novel has been reduced to a scant two cassettes. But dismay quickly gives way to mounting pleasure as Elaina Erika Davis (Contact, As the World Turns) begins her delicate rendering of geisha culture in the years before the second world war. Davis reads the abbreviated story of Sayuri with an authentic-sounding Japanese accent--one mixed with a magical combination of Asian reserve and theatrical energy. As Sayuri ages from a 9-year-old peasant girl to a popular geisha in her late 20s, Davis directs her voice gently away from curious youth to a tone that reflects Sayuri's uphill life.

From start to finish, the listener is absorbed in the elegant spirit of Davis's performance, eager to hear the next chapter of Sayuri's transformation into one of the most famous geishas of the century. How unfortunate, then, to learn that book readers not only get the basic story, but a fascinating look at the intricate rules and rituals of geisha culture. Here, for example, is one of the many revelations omitted from the cassette: "Japanese men, as a rule, feel about a woman's neck and throat the same way that men in the West might feel about a woman's legs .... In fact, a geisha leaves a tiny margin of skin bare all around the hairline, causing her makeup to look even more artificial .... When a man sits beside her, he becomes that much more aware of the bare skin beneath."

We're also denied several subplots--the aborted friendship between Sayuri and a geisha named Pumpkin, for example, or much of the story involving the man Sayuri is secretly in love with. But what remains is as precious as a traditional Japanese kimono--at once artistic, suggestive and moving. --Ann Senechal --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.


"'Intimate and brutal, written in cool, lucid prose it is a novel whose psychological empathy and historical truths are outstanding' Mail on Sunday"

"'Endless and fascinating-a narrative that is both gripping and beautifully paced-a wonderful read' Observer "


'This is a high-wire act- Rarely has a world so closed and foreign been evoked with such natural assurance' New Yorker


"'Memoirs of a Geisha ' is 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're listening and seeing with someone else's ears and eyes' Margaret Forster"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 46 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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing as an insight into Japanese culture 26 Nov 1998
By A Customer
From the first page this book is a captivating read. I stayed up several nights to finish this book - to the detriment of my work!
Sayuri's early life has a fairytale quality and it is this that the reader identifies with. Like Cinderalla, you want Sayuri to succeed.
When the plot moves to Kyoto we begin to see the beautiful intricacy of Japanese society and get some understanding of a geisha's life. I found this attention to detail totally absorbing and often at odds with my limited knowledge of time and place. Absolutely recommended for a easy read.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs fulfill their purpose! 30 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Memoirs of a Geisha is a very, historically and emotionally, interesting novel. It explores the life of a famous Japanese Geisha and is supposedly addapted from her real memoirs. This could be why it is so informative and realistic. Credit must be given to the author however, as he had to translate the memoirs and has done a beautiful job in doing so. The language used really portrays the feelings and conditions of life in Japan in the good times and during war time. The Japanese culture is reflected beautifully through the works and I really feel as though I have learnt a great deal from this reading. The Memoirs follow the life of a young Japanese girl who is sold off by her father to an okyia at a very young age. She is told she will become a geisha, but during training has many falls and the hope of it ever happening is lost. She is given a second chance by a very prestigious geisha "Mahema" and manages to become quite successfull. However the whole way through the story she is lacking the one thing she desires, love. In this way the novel turns into a romance toward the end because it does follow this genre pattern. All in all, this is definatly worth the read and won't leave you dissapointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Book of Two Halves
I absolutely loved the first half of this book. I found the character Sayuri endeering and felt I had been transported to a different and facinating world. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Mrs A
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the most poignant books I've read..Brilliant
Published 6 days ago by Elaine Park
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Classic book. A book you can get lost in.
Published 16 days ago by lilacwren
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally recommend this book
I read this book when it first came out and really enjoyed it and I`m glad I`ve read it again because I`ve totally really enjoyed it again, I really recommend this book to everyone... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Tracey
5.0 out of 5 stars An insight into another world
This is an excellent, accessible, easy read. It tells the story of a little girl who is taken from her home to train as a geisha. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Tracey Madeley
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyable read
Published 19 days ago by Alison
5.0 out of 5 stars So Good
Such a good read, I love reading books that give you an insight into another world you new nothing about. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MissWatermelon
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My favourite book
Published 1 month ago by tc350
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Excellent book, couldn't put it down completely enthralling.
Much better than the film, so read the book first - and in fact if yo love the book like i do don't bother with... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Samantha
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It gave a glimpse into the strange, bizzare and intriguing world of geisha and Japanese culture in early twentieth century. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mo
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