Memoirs Of A Geisha Paperback – 4 Jun 1998
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book successfully took me to another time and place. It is a beautiful read that paints a real picture of another world and carries a universal message of hope.Published 22 days ago by sarah
If you are somewhat of a cynical person or reader I wouldn't recommend this book.
At first I was reading it as a biography as told to an American author so could enjoy it... Read more
An insight of terrible cruelty of a diferent time and culture. An eloquently written and emotive classic.Published 1 month ago by Andrea
Wonderful book, I'm not much of a reader and need easy to read books if I'm going to do it! This was perfect for that, it also ties in so nicely with the movie too :)Published 1 month ago by Elizabeth Kitson
This book was a great read. Very informative and kept me gripped. Great story and detail.Published 1 month ago by Ronald Paterson
Arthur Golden is an American. He is a man. He lives in Brooklyn, Massachusetts.
Sayuri is Japanese. She is a woman. She lives in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan. Read more