Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

4.6 1638
by Arthur Golden
     
 

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A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor

Overview

A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

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Arthur Golden's brilliant debut novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, is a reminder of just how silly the exhortation 'write what you know!' can be. Clearly Golden, a 40-something American male, has never lived anything remotely similar to the experiences of a geisha coming of age in the '30s, the glory days of Kyoto's Gion pleasure district. Yet it is precisely this vanished world that he re-creates with subtlety, sensuality, and supreme authority, bringing to life characters so complete and idiosyncratic — so fully sprung from the eras he has evoked — that his novel ultimately overwhelms us, as seductive and beguiling as the geisha of its title.

With details as finely etched as those in a Hiroshige woodcut, Golden brings to life the beauty of pre-war Japan, specifically the Gion district of that most graceful of ancient cities, Kyoto, as experienced by Sayuri, the gray-eyed geisha of the book's title. It is Sayuri's metamorphosis, from her impoverished beginnings in a poor fishing village, when she is still known as Chiyo, to her standing as one of Japan's most celebrated entertainers, that makes up the dramatic arc of this tale. Chiyo is only nine when she and her sister, Satsu, are virtually sold to a stranger by her father. Chiyo's unusual beauty lands her an apprenticeship in one of Kyoto's best-known okiya, or geisha houses, while the plainer Satsu is led to a run-down part of town where she will be forced into prostitution. Except for a momentary reunion many months later, the sisters never see one another again.

In theokiya,Chiyo's beauty earns her the lifelong enmity of the head geisha, the lovely but venomous Hatsumomo. Chiyo suffers months of mistreatment by Hatsumomo, whose lies and manipulations not only threaten her future as an apprentice but threaten to sink her beneath a mountain of debt that a lifetime of servitude in the okiya may never pay off. Luckily, Chiyo, now renamed the more auspicious 'Sayuri,' is saved by Hatsumomo's rival, the celebrated geisha Mameha, who strikes an unusual deal with the head of the okiya, under whose terms she will take Sayuri as her pupil.

The quick-witted Sayuri turns out to be a fast learner. Although still mourning the loss of her family and her childhood, Sayuri, already entranced by Hatsumomo's exquisite kimonos and make-up, knows her only hope lies in becoming a celebrated geisha herself. Melancholy yet self-assured, she has an epiphany one morning after finding a dead moth she buried months earlier beneath the foundation of the okiya.

It seemed to be wearing a robe in subdued grays and browns.... Everything about it seemed beautiful and perfect and so utterly unchanged. It struck me that we — that moth and I — were two opposite extremes. My existence was as unstable as a stream...but the moth was like a piece of stone, changing not at all. While thinking this...I brushed it with my finger tip, and it turned all at once into a pile of ash without even a sound. I let the tiny shroud flutter to the ground; and now I understood the thing that had puzzled me all morning...the past was gone. My mother and father were dead...and my sister...was gone; but I wasn't.... I felt as though I'd turned around to look in a different direction, so that I no longer faced backward towards the past, but forward towards the future.

Sayuri, Mameha notes, has an abundance of water in her personality. 'Water never waits,' Mameha informs her at one of their first meetings. 'It can wash away earth, it can put out fire; it can wear metal down and sweep it away.... Those of us with water in our personality don't pick where we'll flow to. All we can do is flow where the landscape of our lives carries us.'

So Sayuri flows forward, absorbing a geisha's traditional education: the shamisen lessons and tea ceremonies; the dance lessons and ikebana; witnessing nights of entertaining in Kyoto's most elegant tea houses. All the while she is aware that her fortunes will always hinge on others: on the whims of Mother, the head of the okiya; on the intrigues of Gion itself; on her ability to negotiate the rivalries between herself and her fellow apprentices and between Mameha and Hatsumomo; and most important, on Mameha's handling of the delicate negotiations that surround the bidding for Sayuri's mizuage, or virginity, a step that will largely determine whether or not she will be able to secure for herself a favorable danna, or patron, without which any geisha is, as Mameha instructs, like 'a stray cat on the street.'

This idea of flow, of going where the current of destiny takes one, permeates the narrative and is a cause of despair for Sayuri, who has fallen deeply in love with a man she believes to be unattainable. 'We don't become geisha so our lives will be satisfying,' a resigned Mameha counsels Sayuri. 'We become geisha because we have no other choice.... Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them, but when they become old, they look silly wearing even one.'

Sayuri eventually does become a full-fledged geisha, even a renowned one. Yet the water in her personality also signals a passionate nature that very little can dam. Ultimately, Sayuri does not fit into this world in which ritual is prized above individual happiness. In a devastating act of courage and deception, Sayuri risks everything she has achieved for a chance at happiness.

Like a gorgeously layered kimono, Memoirs gradually unfolds to reveal the courage, love, daring, and hope of an intensely human — and, it turns out, surprisingly modern — woman. Sayuri's voice, alternately poetic and mischievous, lends the narrative an immediacy that provides a beguiling counterpoint to the exquisitely detailed rituals — such as the lacquered mask Sayuri learns to apply so expertly — that make up so much of geisha life in prewar Gion. Like Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, Memoirs of a Geisha revives a long-vanished world and makes us experience, however briefly, its fragile, mothlike, and indelible beauty.

The Barnes & Noble Review

The Art of Seduction

Arthur Golden's brilliant debut novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, is a reminder of just how silly the exhortation 'write what you know!' can be. Clearly Golden, a 40-something American male, has never lived anything remotely similar to the experiences of a geisha coming of age in the '30s, the glory days of Kyoto's Gion pleasure district. Yet it is precisely this vanished world that he re-creates with subtlety, sensuality, and supreme authority, bringing to life characters so complete and idiosyncratic — so fully sprung from the eras he has evoked — that his novel ultimately overwhelms us, as seductive and beguiling as the geisha of its title.

With details as finely etched as those in a Hiroshige woodcut, Golden brings to life the beauty of pre-war Japan, specifically the Gion district of that most graceful of ancient cities, Kyoto, as experienced by Sayuri, the gray-eyed geisha of the book's title. It is Sayuri's metamorphosis, from her impoverished beginnings in a poor fishing village, when she is still known as Chiyo, to her standing as one of Japan's most celebrated entertainers, that makes up the dramatic arc of this tale. Chiyo is only nine when she and her sister, Satsu, are virtually sold to a stranger by her father. Chiyo's unusual beauty lands her an apprenticeship in one of Kyoto's best-known okiya, or geisha houses, while the plainer Satsu is led to a run-down part of town where she will be forced into prostitution. Except for a momentary reunion many months later, the sisters never see one another again.

In theokiya,Chiyo's beauty earns her the lifelong enmity of the head geisha, the lovely but venomous Hatsumomo. Chiyo suffers months of mistreatment by Hatsumomo, whose lies and manipulations not only threaten her future as an apprentice but threaten to sink her beneath a mountain of debt that a lifetime of servitude in the okiya may never pay off. Luckily, Chiyo, now renamed the more auspicious 'Sayuri,' is saved by Hatsumomo's rival, the celebrated geisha Mameha, who strikes an unusual deal with the head of the okiya, under whose terms she will take Sayuri as her pupil.

The quick-witted Sayuri turns out to be a fast learner. Although still mourning the loss of her family and her childhood, Sayuri, already entranced by Hatsumomo's exquisite kimonos and make-up, knows her only hope lies in becoming a celebrated geisha herself. Melancholy yet self-assured, she has an epiphany one morning after finding a dead moth she buried months earlier beneath the foundation of the okiya.

It seemed to be wearing a robe in subdued grays and browns.... Everything about it seemed beautiful and perfect and so utterly unchanged. It struck me that we — that moth and I — were two opposite extremes. My existence was as unstable as a stream...but the moth was like a piece of stone, changing not at all. While thinking this...I brushed it with my finger tip, and it turned all at once into a pile of ash without even a sound. I let the tiny shroud flutter to the ground; and now I understood the thing that had puzzled me all morning...the past was gone. My mother and father were dead...and my sister...was gone; but I wasn't.... I felt as though I'd turned around to look in a different direction, so that I no longer faced backward towards the past, but forward towards the future.

Sayuri, Mameha notes, has an abundance of water in her personality. 'Water never waits,' Mameha informs her at one of their first meetings. 'It can wash away earth, it can put out fire; it can wear metal down and sweep it away.... Those of us with water in our personality don't pick where we'll flow to. All we can do is flow where the landscape of our lives carries us.'

So Sayuri flows forward, absorbing a geisha's traditional education: the shamisen lessons and tea ceremonies; the dance lessons and ikebana; witnessing nights of entertaining in Kyoto's most elegant tea houses. All the while she is aware that her fortunes will always hinge on others: on the whims of Mother, the head of the okiya; on the intrigues of Gion itself; on her ability to negotiate the rivalries between herself and her fellow apprentices and between Mameha and Hatsumomo; and most important, on Mameha's handling of the delicate negotiations that surround the bidding for Sayuri's mizuage, or virginity, a step that will largely determine whether or not she will be able to secure for herself a favorable danna, or patron, without which any geisha is, as Mameha instructs, like 'a stray cat on the street.'

This idea of flow, of going where the current of destiny takes one, permeates the narrative and is a cause of despair for Sayuri, who has fallen deeply in love with a man she believes to be unattainable. 'We don't become geisha so our lives will be satisfying,' a resigned Mameha counsels Sayuri. 'We become geisha because we have no other choice.... Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them, but when they become old, they look silly wearing even one.'

Sayuri eventually does become a full-fledged geisha, even a renowned one. Yet the water in her personality also signals a passionate nature that very little can dam. Ultimately, Sayuri does not fit into this world in which ritual is prized above individual happiness. In a devastating act of courage and deception, Sayuri risks everything she has achieved for a chance at happiness.

Like a gorgeously layered kimono, Memoirs gradually unfolds to reveal the courage, love, daring, and hope of an intensely human — and, it turns out, surprisingly modern — woman. Sayuri's voice, alternately poetic and mischievous, lends the narrative an immediacy that provides a beguiling counterpoint to the exquisitely detailed rituals — such as the lacquered mask Sayuri learns to apply so expertly — that make up so much of geisha life in prewar Gion. Like Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, Memoirs of a Geisha revives a long-vanished world and makes us experience, however briefly, its fragile, mothlike, and indelible beauty. — Sarah Midori Zimmerman

USA Today
Enthralling...Draws the reader in from the very first page.
People Magazine
Remarkable...elegant...lyrical...evocative.
Mademoiselle
Stunningly authentic...Be prepared to get totally engrossed.
Newsday
As close to un-put-downable as any novel in years, yet bristling with intelligence and grace. Wow!
San Francisco Chronicle
esmerizing...and beautifully detailed.
Library Journal
'I wasn't born and raised to be a Kyoto geisha....I'm a fisherman's daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan.' How nine-year-old Chiyo, sold with her sister into slavery by their father after their mother's death, becomes Sayuri, the beautiful geisha accomplished in the art of entertaining men, is the focus of this fascinating first novel. Narrating her life story from her elegant suite in the Waldorf Astoria, Sayuri tells of her traumatic arrival at the Nitta okiya (a geisha house), where she endures harsh treatment from Granny and Mother, the greedy owners, and from Hatsumomo, the sadistically cruel head geisha. But Sayuri's chance meeting with the Chairman, who shows her kindness, makes her determined to become a geisha. Under the tutelage of the renowned Mameha, she becomes a leading geisha of the 1930s and 1940s.

After the book's compelling first half, the second half is a bit flat and overlong. Still, Golden, with degrees in Japanese art and history, has brilliantly revealed the culture and traditions of an exotic world, closed to most Westerners. -- Wilda Williams

Dan Cryer
Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha is as exotic as a moonscape and as accessible and old-shoe comfortable as Pride and Prejudice. The ritual culture of the geisha seems utterly alien, as remote from contemporary experience as foot-binding or arranged marriages, yet Golden pegs his first novel to such a recognizable set of dilemmas that its initially foreign landscape is made utterly familiar.

Being a geisha, as Golden explains it, is akin to being an Austen heroine. Men have power and money; women have beauty and charm. It's up to the geisha to learn how to use her wiles if she wants to have any hope of keeping body and soul intact. For Austen's English maiden, the aim was a husband and the financial security he provided. For the geisha in pre-World War II Japan, marriage was usually out of the question, since the powerful men who enjoyed her company often already had wives. And to remain a geisha she could not be married. So the geisha's goal was to make him her danna (patron) and she would become his mistress.

Golden ushers us into this decidedly non-PC territory with exemplary finesse. The geisha, he makes clear, is not a prostitute but an entertainer. Trained in conversation, tea ceremony, dance, song and the shamisen (a stringed instrument), she soothes careworn men in evening gatherings at teahouses. These women may not be men's equals, but they are not their sexual slaves. Flunking out of the system may lead to prostitution, but playing by the rules requires that you avoid it.

The novel's narrator is Nitta Sayuri, a poor fisherman's daughter sold at the age of 9 into the Kyoto geishahood. The girl is blessed with beauty (her unusual gray-blue eyes elicit many compliments), intelligence and wit. She will need every one of these assets as she struggles to find her place in a world controlled by men. As one of her elders informs her, "We don't become geisha so our lives will be satisfying. We become geisha because we have no other choice."

Golden's storytelling is rich and slow-paced. Like Austen, he lavishes attention on the minute details that regulate and define social distinctions. In the raising of a teacup or an eyebrow there are worlds of implication. The prose style is simple and strangely satisfying, perfectly attuned to its time and place. Golden manages to find the simile for every occasion. "That startling month in which I first came upon the Chairman again ... made me feel like a pet cricket that has at last escaped its wicker cage. For the first time in ages I could go to bed at night believing that I might not always draw as little notice in Gion as a drop of tea spilled onto the mats."

Golden deftly makes use of a culture that deflects emotion and makes direct communication taboo to create a world of intrigue and romance. Depression and war remain in the background while Sayuri imbibes wisdom from her mentor, Mameha, battles her rival, Hatsumomo, and yearns for the attentions of the Chairman. Memoirs of a Geisha is an intelligent entertainment. -- Salon Oct. 29, 1997

Vogue
A startling act of literary impersonation, a feat of cross-cultural masquerade on the order of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day... Golden's description of a kept woman's fleshly epiphanies has the purity of Colette.
Washington Post Book World
Astonishing... A breathtaking performance... By the time you realize the extent of [the geisha's] professional skill, you are seduced as completely as any of her clients, hungry for her story.
Sarah Midori Zimmerman
"A novel that is full of cliffhangers great and small, a novel that refuses to stay shut."--Newsweek

"Part historical novel, part fairy tale, part Dickensian romance, Memoirs of a Geisha is not only a richly sympathetic portrait of a woman, but a finely observed picture of an anomalous and largely vanished world.... An impressive and unusual debut." --New York Times

You've heard about the book. You may have even heard that its author, Arthur Golden, spent ten years writing the novel and threw away 2,800 manuscript pages trying to get it just right. Determination paid off beyond Golden's wildest dreams. After a first printing of 35,000 copies, Memoirs of a Geisha has gone back to press 35 times, with 450,000 copies now in print. The book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly a year. To top it off, Steven Spielberg was so taken with the book that he came off hiatus to begin production: "Memoirs of a Geisha" will be his next feature film. Be sure to join us on Thursday, November 5th at 7pm ET when we chat with Arthur Golden.

The Art of Seduction

Arthur Golden's brilliant debut novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, is a reminder of just how silly the exhortation "write what you know!" can be. Clearly Golden, a 40-something American male, has never lived anything remotely similar to the experiences of a geisha coming of age in the 1930s, the glory days of Kyoto's Gion pleasure district. Yet it is precisely this vanished world that he re-creates with subtlety, sensuality, and supreme authority, bringing to life characters so complete and idiosyncratic -- so fully sprung from the eras he has evoked -- that his novel ultimately overwhelms us, as seductive and beguiling as the geisha of its title.

With details as finely etched as those in a Hiroshige woodcut, Golden brings to life the beauty of prewar Japan, specifically the Gion district of that most graceful of ancient cities, Kyoto, as experienced by Sayuri, the gray-eyed geisha of the book's title. It is Sayuri's metamorphosis, from her impoverished beginnings in a poor fishing village, when she is still known as Chiyo, to her standing as one of Japan's most celebrated entertainers, that makes up the dramatic arc of this tale. Chiyo is only nine when she and her sister, Satsu, are virtually sold to a stranger by her father. Chiyo's unusual beauty lands her an apprenticeship in one of Kyoto's best-known okiya, or geisha houses, while the plainer Satsu is led to a run-down part of town, where she will be forced into prostitution. Except for a momentary reunion many months later, the sisters never see each other again.

In the okiya, Chiyo's beauty earns her the lifelong enmity of the head geisha, the lovely but venomous Hatsumomo. Chiyo suffers months of mistreatment by Hatsumomo, whose lies and manipulations not only threaten her future as an apprentice but threaten to sink her beneath a mountain of debt that a lifetime of servitude in the okiya may never pay off. Luckily, Chiyo, now renamed the more auspicious Sayuri, is saved by Hatsumomo's rival, the celebrated geisha Mameha, who strikes an unusual deal with the head of the okiya, under whose terms she will take Sayuri as her pupil.

The quick-witted Sayuri turns out to be a fast learner. Although still mourning the loss of her family and her childhood, Sayuri, already entranced by Hatsumomo's exquisite kimonos and makeup, knows her only hope lies in becoming a celebrated geisha herself. Melancholy yet self-assured, she has an epiphany one morning after finding a dead moth she buried months earlier beneath the foundation of the okiya.

It seemed to be wearing a robe in subdued grays and browns.... Everything about it seemed beautiful and perfect and so utterly unchanged. It struck me that we -- that moth and I -- were two opposite extremes. My existence was as unstable as a stream...but the moth was like a piece of stone, changing not at all. While thinking this...I brushed it with my finger tip, and it turned all at once into a pile of ash without even a sound. I let the tiny shroud flutter to the ground; and now I understood the thing that had puzzled me all morning...the past was gone. My mother and father were dead...and my sister...was gone; but I wasn't.... I felt as though I'd turned around to look in a different direction, so that I no longer faced backward towards the past, but forward towards the future.

Sayuri, Mameha notes, has an abundance of water in her personality. "Water never waits," Mameha informs her at one of their first meetings. "It can wash away earth, it can put out fire; it can wear metal down and sweep it away.... Those of us with water in our personality don't pick where we'll flow to. All we can do is flow where the landscape of our lives carries us."

So Sayuri flows forward, absorbing a geisha's traditional education: the shamisen lessons and tea ceremonies, the dance lessons and ikebana, witnessing nights of entertaining in Kyoto's most elegant teahouses. All the while she is aware that her fortunes will always hinge on others: on the whims of Mother, the head of the okiya; on the intrigues of Gion itself; on her ability to negotiate the rivalries between herself and her fellow apprentices and between Mameha and Hatsumomo; and most important, on Mameha's handling of the delicate negotiations that surround the bidding for Sayuri's mizuage, or virginity, a step that will largely determine whether or not she will be able to secure for herself a favorable danna, or patron, without which any geisha is, as Mameha instructs, like "a stray cat on the street."

This idea of flow, of going where the current of destiny takes one, permeates the narrative and is a cause of despair for Sayuri, who has fallen deeply in love with a man she believes to be unattainable. "We don't become geisha so our lives will be satisfying," a resigned Mameha counsels Sayuri. "We become geisha because we have no other choice.... Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them, but when they become old, they look silly wearing even one."

Sayuri eventually does become a full-fledged geisha, even a renowned one. Yet the water in her personality also signals a passionate nature that very little can dam. Ultimately, Sayuri does not fit into this world in which ritual is prized above individual happiness. In a devastating act of courage and deception, Sayuri risks everything she has achieved for a chance at happiness.

Like a gorgeously layered kimono, MEMOIRS gradually unfolds to reveal the courage, love, daring, and hope of an intensely human -- and, it turns out, surprisingly modern -- woman. Sayuri's voice, alternately poetic and mischievous, lends the narrative an immediacy that provides a beguiling counterpoint to the exquisitely detailed rituals -- such as the lacquered mask Sayuri learns to apply so expertly -- that make up so much of geisha life in prewar Gion. Like Kazuo Ishiguro's An Artist of the Floating World, Memoirs of a Geisha revives a long-vanished world and makes us experience, however briefly, its fragile, mothlike, and indelible beauty.

Sarah Midori Zimmerman is a writer and editor in New York City.

Entertainment Weekly
High-toned prose...scholarly detail.
Kirkus Reviews
Cherry-blossom delicate, with images as carefully sculpted as bonsai, this tale of the life of a renowned geisha, one of the last flowers of a kind all but eliminated by WW II, marks an auspicious, unusual debut. Japan is already changing, becoming industrialized and imperialistic, when in 1929 young Chiyo's fisherman father sells her to a house in Kyoto's famous Gion district. The girl's gray-eyed beauty is startling even in childhood, so much so that her training is impeded by the jealousy of her house's primary geisha, the popular, petty Hatsumomo. Caught trying to run away, Chiyo loses her trainee status until taken under the wing of Mameha, a bitter rival of Hatsumomo.

Chiyo flourishes with Mameha as her guide, soon receiving her geisha name, Sayuri, and having her mentor skillfully arrange the two main events vital to a geisha's success: the sale of Sayuri's virginity (for a record price), and the finding of a sugar-daddy to pay her way. Seeing the implications of Japan's militarism, Mameha pairs Sayuri with the general in charge of army provisions, so that as WW II drags on she and her house have things no one else in Gion can obtain. After the war, with her general dead and others vying for her attention, Sayuri pines anew for the only man she ever loved—an electrical-corporation chairman whose kindness to a crying Chiyo years before altered the course of her future.

Though incomparable in its view of a geisha's life behind the scenes, the story loses immediacy as it goes along. When modern times eclipse Gion's sheltered world, the latter part of Sayuri's life—compared to the incandescent clarity of its first decades—seems increasingly flat.

From the Publisher
"Astonishing . . . breathtaking . . . You are seduced completely." —Washington Post Book World

"Captivating, minutely imagined . . . a novel that refuses to stay shut." —Newsweek

"A story with the social vibrancy and narrative sweep of a much-loved 19th century bildungsroman. . . . This is a high-wire act. . . . Rarely has a world so closed and foreign been evoked with such natural assurance." —The New Yorker

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375406782
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/09/1999
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
17,283
File size:
730 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, "That afternoon when I met so-and-so . . . was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon." I expect you might put down your teacup and say, "Well, now, which was it? Was it the best or the worst? Because it can't possibly have been both!" Ordinarily I'd have to laugh at myself and agree with you. But the truth is that the afternoon when I met Mr. Tanaka Ichiro really was the best and the worst of my life. He seemed so fascinating to me, even the fish smell on his hands was a kind of perfume. If I had never known him, I'm sure I would not have become a geisha.

I wasn't born and raised to be a Kyoto geisha. I wasn't even born in Kyoto. I'm a fisherman's daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan. In all my life I've never told more than a handful of people anything at all about Yoroido, or about the house in which I grew up, or about my mother and father, or my older sister — and certainly not about how I became a geisha, or what it was like to be one. Most people would much rather carry on with their fantasies that my mother and grandmother were geisha, and that I began my training in dance when I was weaned from the breast, and so on. As a matter of fact, one day many years ago I was pouring a cup of sake for a man who happened to mention that he had been in Yoroido only the previous week. Well, I felt as a bird must feel when it has flown across the ocean and comes upon a creature that knows its nest. I was so shocked I couldn't stop myself from saying:

"Yoroido! Why, that's where I grew up!"

This poor man! His face went through the most remarkable series of changes. He tried his best to smile, though it didn't come out well because he couldn't get the look of shock off his face.

"Yoroido?" he said. "You can't mean it."

I long ago developed a very practiced smile, which I call my "Noh smile" because it resembles a Noh mask whose features are frozen. Its advantage is that men can interpret it however they want; you can imagine how often I've relied on it. I decided I'd better use it just then, and of course it worked. He let out all his breath and tossed down the cup of sake I'd poured for him before giving an enormous laugh I'm sure was prompted more by relief than anything else.

"The very idea!" he said, with another big laugh. "You, growing up in a dump like Yoroido. That's like making tea in a bucket!" And when he'd laughed again, he said to me, "That's why you're so much fun, Sayuri-san. Sometimes you almost make me believe your little jokes are real."

I don't much like thinking of myself as a cup of tea made in a bucket, but I suppose in a way it must be true. After all, I did grow up in Yoroido, and no one would suggest it's a glamorous spot. Hardly anyone ever visits it. As for the people who live there, they never have occasion to leave. You're probably wondering how I came to leave it myself. That's where my story begins.

* * *

In our little fishing village of Yoroido, I lived in what I called a "tipsy house." It stood near a cliff where the wind off the ocean was always blowing. As a child it seemed to me as if the ocean had caught a terrible cold, because it was always wheezing and there would be spells when it let out a huge sneeze — which is to say there was a burst of wind with a tremendous spray. I decided our tiny house must have been offended by the ocean sneezing in its face from time to time, and took to leaning back because it wanted to get out of the way. Probably it would have collapsed if my father hadn't cut a timber from a wrecked fishing boat to prop up the eaves, which made the house look like a tipsy old man leaning on his crutch.

Inside this tipsy house I lived something of a lopsided life. Because from my earliest years I was very much like my mother, and hardly at all like my father or older sister. My mother said it was because we were made just the same, she and I — and it was true — we both had the same peculiar eyes of a sort you almost never see in Japan. Instead of being dark brown like everyone else's, my mother's eyes were a translucent gray, and mine are just the same. When I was very young, I told my mother I thought someone had poked a hole in her eyes and all the ink had drained out, which she thought very funny. The fortune-tellers said her eyes were so pale because of too much water in her personality, so much that the other four elements were hardly present at all — and this, they explained, was why her features matched so poorly. People in the village often said she ought to have been extremely attractive, because her parents had been. Well, a peach has a lovely taste and so does a mushroom, but you can't put the two together; this was the terrible trick nature had played on her. She had her mother's pouty mouth but her father's angular jaw, which gave the impression of a delicate picture with much too heavy a frame. And her lovely gray eyes were surrounded by thick lashes that must have been striking on her father, but in her case only made her look startled.

My mother always said she'd married my father because she had too much water in her personality and he had too much wood in his. People who knew my father understood right away what she was talking about. Water flows from place to place quickly and always finds a crack to spill through. Wood, on the other hand, holds fast to the earth. In my father's case this was a good thing, for he was a fisherman, and a man with wood in his personality is at ease on the sea. In fact, my father was more at ease on the sea than anywhere else, and never left it far behind him. He smelled like the sea even after he had bathed. When he wasn't fishing, he sat on the floor in our dark front room mending a fishing net. And if a fishing net had been a sleeping creature, he wouldn't even have awakened it, at the speed he worked. He did everything this slowly. Even when he summoned a look of concentration, you could run outside and drain the bath in the time it took him to rearrange his features. His face was very heavily creased, and into each crease he had tucked some worry or other, so that it wasn't really his own face any longer, but more like a tree that had nests of birds in all the branches. He had to struggle constantly to manage it and always looked worn out from the effort.

When I was six or seven, I learned something about my father I'd never known. One day I asked him, "Daddy, why are you so old?" He hoisted up his eyebrows at this, so that they formed little sagging umbrellas over his eyes. And he let out a long breath, and shook his head and said, "I don't know." When I turned to my mother, she gave me a look meaning she would answer the question for me another time. The following day without saying a word, she walked me down the hill toward the village and turned at a path into a graveyard in the woods. She led me to three graves in the corner, with three white marker posts much taller than I was. They had stern-looking black characters written top to bottom on them, but I hadn't attended the school in our little village long enough to know where one ended and the next began. My mother pointed to them and said, "Natsu, wife of Sakamoto Minoru." Sakamoto Minoru was the name of my father. "Died age twenty-four, in the nineteenth year of Meiji." Then she pointed to the next one: "Jinichiro, son of Sakamoto Minoru, died age six, in the nineteenth year of Meiji," and to the next one, which was identical except for the name, Masao, and the age, which was three. It took me a while to understand that my father had been married before, a long time ago, and that his whole family had died. I went back to those graves not long afterward and found as I stood there that sadness was a very heavy thing. My body weighed twice what it had only a moment earlier, as if those graves were pulling me down toward them.

* * *

With all this water and all this wood, the two of them ought to have made a good balance and produced children with the proper arrangement of elements. I'm sure it was a surprise to them that they ended up with one of each. For it wasn't just that I resembled my mother and had even inherited her unusual eyes; my sister, Satsu, was as much like my father as anyone could be. Satsu was six years older than me, and of course, being older, she could do things I couldn't do. But Satsu had a remarkable quality of doing everything in a way that seemed like a complete accident. For example, if you asked her to pour a bowl of soup from a pot on the stove, she would get the job done, but in a way that looked like she'd spilled it into the bowl just by luck. One time she even cut herself with a fish, and I don't mean with a knife she was using to clean a fish. She was carrying a fish wrapped in paper up the hill from the village when it slid out and fell against her leg in such a way as to cut her with one of its fins.

Our parents might have had other children besides Satsu and me, particularly since my father hoped for a boy to fish with him. But when I was seven my mother grew terribly ill with what was probably bone cancer, though at the time I had no idea what was wrong. Her only escape from discomfort was to sleep, which she began to do the way a cat does — which is to say, more or less constantly. As the months passed she slept most of the time, and soon began to groan whenever she was awake. I knew something in her was changing quickly, but because of so much water in her personality, this didn't seem worrisome to me. Sometimes she grew thin in a matter of months but grew strong again just as quickly. But by the time I was nine, the bones in her face had begun to protrude, and she never gained weight again afterward. I didn't realize the water was draining out of her because of her illness. Just as seaweed is naturally soggy, you see, but turns brittle as it dries, my mother was giving up more and more of her essence.

Then one afternoon I was sitting on the pitted floor of our dark front room, singing to a cricket I'd found that morning, when a voice called out at the door:

"Oi! Open up! It's Dr. Miura!"

Dr. Miura came to our fishing village once a week, and had made a point of walking up the hill to check on my mother ever since her illness had begun. My father was at home that day because a terrible storm was coming. He sat in his usual spot on the floor, with his two big spiderlike hands tangled up in a fishing net. But he took a moment to point his eyes at me and raise one of his fingers. This meant he wanted me to answer the door.

Dr. Miura was a very important man — or so we believed in our village. He had studied in Tokyo and reportedly knew more Chinese characters than anyone. He was far too proud to notice a creature like me. When I opened the door for him, he slipped out of his shoes and stepped right past me into the house.

"Why, Sakamoto-san," he said to my father, "I wish I had your life, out on the sea fishing all day. How glorious! And then on rough days you take a rest. I see your wife is still asleep," he went on. "What a pity. I thought I might examine her."

"Oh?" said my father.

"I won't be around next week, you know. Perhaps you might wake her for me?"

My father took a while to untangle his hands from the net, but at last he stood.

"Chiyo-chan," he said to me, "get the doctor a cup of tea."

My name back then was Chiyo. I wouldn't be known by my geisha name, Sayuri, until years later.

My father and the doctor went into the other room, where my mother lay sleeping. I tried to listen at the door, but I could hear only my mother groaning, and nothing of what they said. I occupied myself with making tea, and soon the doctor came back out rubbing his hands together and looking very stern. My father came to join him, and they sat together at the table in the center of the room.

"The time has come to say something to you, Sakamoto-san," Dr. Miura began. "You need to have a talk with one of the women in the village. Mrs. Sugi, perhaps. Ask her to make a nice new robe for your wife."

"I haven't the money, Doctor," my father said.

"We've all grown poorer lately. I understand what you're saying. But you owe it to your wife. She shouldn't die in that tattered robe she's wearing."

"So she's going to die soon?"

"A few more weeks, perhaps. She's in terrible pain. Death will release her."

After this, I couldn't hear their voices any longer; for in my ears I heard a sound like a bird's wings flapping in panic.
Perhaps it was my heart, I don't know. But if you've ever seen a bird trapped inside the great hall of a temple, looking for some way out, well, that was how my mind was reacting. It had never occurred to me that my mother wouldn't simply go on being sick. I won't say I'd never wondered what might happen if she should die; I did wonder about it, in the same way I wondered what might happen if our house were swallowed up in an earthquake. There could hardly be life after such an event.

"I thought I would die first," my father was saying.

"You're an old man, Sakamoto-san. But your health is good. You might have four or five years. I'll leave you some more of those pills for your wife. You can give them to her two at a time, if you need to."

They talked about the pills a bit longer, and then Dr. Miura left. My father went on sitting for a long while in silence, with his back to me. He wore no shirt but only his loose-fitting skin; the more I looked at him, the more he began to seem like just a curious collection of shapes and textures. His spine was a path of knobs. His head, with its discolored splotches, might have been a bruised fruit. His arms were sticks wrapped in old leather, dangling from two bumps. If my mother died, how could I go on living in the house with him? I didn't want to be away from him; but whether he was there or not, the house would be just as empty when my mother had left it.

At last my father said my name in a whisper. I went and knelt beside him.

"Something very important," he said.

His face was so much heavier than usual, with his eyes rolling around almost as though he'd lost control of them. I thought he was struggling to tell me my mother would die soon, but all he said was:

"Go down to the village. Bring back some incense for the altar."

Our tiny Buddhist altar rested on an old crate beside the entrance to the kitchen; it was the only thing of value in our tipsy house. In front of a rough carving of Amida, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, stood tiny black mortuary tablets bearing the Buddhist names of our dead ancestors.

"But, Father...wasn't there anything else?"

I hoped he would reply, but he only made a gesture with his hand that meant for me to leave.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

What People are saying about this

Arthur Golden
[Geisha] is not about sex, though sex is available. It's about being a womanand being present in this group of men and changing the social dynamic. . . . .It is the only subculture in Japan I know of that is absolutely ruled by women. -- Interviewed in People Magazine, November 23, 1998
Ann Beattie
Arthur Golden's novel is wonderful:involving, intelligent, fascinating, and almost Dickensian in the way the characters inhabit the landscape, and the landscape permeates the characters. It's unique, beautifully written book.

Meet the Author

Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at Harvard College, where he received a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an M.A. in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. Following a summer at Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo, and, after returning to the United States, earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Memoirs of a Geisha 4.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 1638 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing and a beautiful read. It felt like Chiyo and Sayuri were right next to me telling the story of their lives. Beautifullly witten. This book engulfs the reader in its own world and even the most relunctant readers will find that they can't put this book down. I told my friend who only read a book once in a while and she finished the book in about 4 days. The story pulls your heart strings and you will hold your breath to find out what happens next. It is one of those books that when you hear its name again you immediately smile and say what a good book it was. You'll find yourself reccommending it to all your friends and family.
StacieRosePittard More than 1 year ago
I first want to address a couple reviews I read before I purchased Memoirs of a Geisha, because I very nearly skipped this novel due to the content of these reviews. People were offended by the sexual content in this novel, and some even said that the author gave the impression that Geisha were more sexual than they really are. I disagree. Yes, there is a bit of sexual content, but it is in no way overwhelming, nor does it mislead readers to believe that Geisha are the same as prostitutes. If anything, the author of this book does a fantastic job of describing the art of the Geisha. I learned quite a bit about Geisha, and what they really do. I've always heard some people insist that a Geisha's job had nothing to do with sex, while others say that Geisha were no different from prostitutes. Both are wrong, and this book does a fantastic job of clarifying that balance. On top of that, it paints a wonderful picture of both the darker and brighter sides of a Geisha's life. It's not pure oppression, while at the same time it's not all rainbows and butterflies. I love that the author was honest in this portrayal, and kept his writing very respectful and open about a Geisha's life style. And finally, it was simply an interesting story. The characters were well developed and interesting to follow, and I found myself deeply connected to their experiences. It's a wonderful novel I highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I adore the film adaptation but it's like looking at the reflection of a flower compared to the tragic loveliness the novel portrays. While there are some cultural innacuracies that a concientious reader would do well to research (the very misunderstood mizuage ceremony specifically) it tells a simple and sad but ultimately peaceful story. If you liked the film you will love this even more!
JWalker27 More than 1 year ago
This book is written around the World War II era of Japan. Its written in fairly complex literature, with full English and Japanese names and locations. Its historacle fiction, whereas the events in the story took place but the people are for the most part fictional.

This story is about a young girl living in the country of Japan. She is taken away with her sister to be sold off to the Geisha market, where they will spend years learning how to entertain men for gifts and money. For the longest time she was thought to be a troublemaker and never to be a Geisha, but none could reject the fact that she was unique from everyone else in Japan, she had "mizu" or blue colored eyes.

After several years of being beaten by those that ran her Geisha house, of causing reckless mistakes, and of being plotted against on a regular basis by the most respectable Geisha in all of Japan, she became one of the most desired women in Japan.

She soon fell in love with a chairman, so she planned out how she could get to him. However, war broke out between Japan and the United States...
ana-gabriela More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha. It was an enjoyable read and the plot really intrigued the reader. The topic was interesting as well, because I am not knowledgeable in Japanese history or geisha. Though this was a fictional novel, it still gave me the idea of what it would have been like to have been a Japanese geisha. Golden did a spectacular job of telling the story. His use of language and the voice he gave to his characters made you believe that Sayuri and her friends were all real people. As you kept reading, you became attached to her silliness and watched her mature into a funny, beloved geisha. One of the things I loved about this story was Sayuri’s personality. Her foolishness got her into massive amounts of trouble. At one point in the story, all seemed lost. You got the feeling that Sayuri would never make it out, but she came back, stronger than ever. I love how in that moment, Golden gave you goose bumps, and made you feel as if you might lose Sayuri. Then, he gave us that moment of relief when all became well for her. He also snuck in a little lesson for Sayuri; she learned the importance of hard work and the satisfaction of earning something yourself. The story definitely showed the hard work done by her in order to become a geisha. One thing I did not like about Memoirs of a Geisha was some of the subject matter. Sex was a very prominent topic in the book; it was a common thing for a geisha to take part in. I feel that Golden’s elaborate descriptions made the reader uncomfortable. I just thought that Golden was a little too detailed. Overall, the account of Sayuri’s life was phenomenal. I believe that anybody can read this book, even if you know nothing about Japan. I think that once the book is opened, it will not be closed until your eye scans the very last word. From the moment you pick Memoirs of a Geisha up, you will be almost disappointed to know that Sayuri Nitta is only fiction.
anji24 More than 1 year ago
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden does a wonderful job on talking an interview of a women and telling her story as a geisha. Nitta Sayuri tells her life on what it was like to be a geisha. Sayuri's story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, as a nine year-old with the most unusable blue-gray eyes. She was taking away from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Where women witness the transformation of a geisha and the arts of dance and music. Memoirs of a Geisha is a book with a lot of vivid metaphors, nature imagery, and other imagery and describe the feeling of the characters in the book. The memorable characters and what they face. What it is was like to be a geisha through Natti Sayuri eyes. This descriptive book has you wanting to read until you can't stop till the end. You will see differently about the Japanese culture and their history. Once you start to read you could hardly put the book down or even if you want to take a break because it's telling you about a person life. Read "Memoirs of a Geisha" and read the suspenseful, romantic, erotic and is completely unforgettable.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I couldn't put the book down honestly. It was so lovely and so enchanting I had to keep going until the end.
Mystearica More than 1 year ago
Hauntingly beautiful. Wonderfully written. A story to last more than just a single lifetime. This isn't simply about a geisha living during the early 20th century. Rather, this is the tale of a woman who is forced to accept a destiny she never expected to forgo. Chiyo is but a young girl when she is sold from her "tipsy" house in the fishing village of Yoroido to live in the geisha district of Gion, located in Kyoto. At first Chiyo yearns to do nothing more than find her sister, Satsu, and go home--but along the way she is met with heartache and deception. But, eventually, Chiyo realized her more mature self, Sayuri, loves her life in Gion. Sayrui herself grows into an alluring, popular geisha who trumps her adversaries with poised dignity, unmatched grace, and meticulous planning. Sayuri can't simply be described in a paragraph or two with just a ramble of pretty words. The best I can manage to describe her, however, is that she's  like an ethereal being who has touched the hearts of many throughout her lifetime. Many times I found myself wishing I could be like her in more ways than one--her tenacity and cunning are the stuff of legends, and--yes--her beauty makes many swoon. Plus, throughout her journey she holds onto the two things that many let slip through their fingers when they are still naive to the world--hopes and dreams. Sayuri holds onto the hope that she will one day see her family again, and dreams of the day of the one she loves the most will call her his own. As she grows older she breaks into her own in several different ways. In many ways, Sayuri is one of those epic characters who successfully steals a piece of your heart. It is safe to say that from this moment on, I will hold Memoirs of a Geisha close to my heart. Even when I'm as old as Sayuri at the end of the novel, I'll find myself re-reading this novel and dreaming of both a beautiful and heartbreaking time in cultural history--and reliving Chiyo's transformation and life as Sayuri all over again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in paperback and fell in love with Sayuri and her vision of Gion. The narrative feels startlingly real, to the exent of my being surprised that Sayuri never truly existed. The language and word choice employed by Golden is so lucid and seductive that the book is near impossible to close once opened. While certainly racy at times, the book avoids straying into overly lurid territory, achieving a breathtakingly beautiful balance between sensuality and hardship. The absolutely hypnotic descriptions of kimonos, ceremonies, Gion, etcetera are amongst the most well-written and gaspingly lovely passages I have ever read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for elements of a historic documentary, a love story, and a search for identity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was better than the movie and the movie was exceptional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Golden does a wonderful job of blending the history of Japan from the 20's through the 50's through the eyes of one Geisha it is hard not to imagine him sitting in a teahouse in New York with a tape recorder and notepad at the feet of an aging Sayuri. Part history of Kyoto and all about the life and culture of the Geisha of Gion, it is a tale that draws you in from the first pages to its somewhat predictable conclusion. Being a realist I imagined the worse scenario befalling the heroine and in this tale it usually did, but for me the ending was not full of the terrible grief and loss that I had come to expect. A truly moving tale with memorable characters and imagery that will endure in my mind for years to come. Thanks for a great read, one of those rare books I couldn't put down and that leaves me a bit sad to return to the shelf. I started this journey on a rainy November afternoon in a small hotel room in Kyoto just across the river from Gion and steps from Pontocho. I finished it back home in Los Angeles, and as I read it here I found myself back in Japan side by side with Sayuri as she walked the streets I had so recently left behind. Thank you for taking me back to Kyoto so vividly and for giving me an even greater desire to return.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the book Memoirs of a Geisha in some parts; but I also disliked it at other parts. I liked the fact that the author was very descriptive of colors and really described the scenery. Especially when he would write about the kimonos, he would describe it so that I felt that I had actually just seen the beautiful kimono with my own eyes. I did not like the fact that at some points in the book it would be very interesting and a lot would be going on but in a lot of other parts nothing seemed to be happening. There was a lot of detail about the daily life of Sayuri for a while which didn’t seem to be relevant to the story. One example was when Sayuri was a maid, there would be extensive detail about was her chores and how she was jealous of Pumpkin because she was in training to become a Geisha. I think that if I was not reading this for a school project I would of liked it even more. I tend to not like books as much when I’m reading it for an assignment as much as I would have if I was reading it on my own. If it wasn’t the book that I picked for my assignment then I probably would have picked it up anyway later on because the story sounds and is indeed a very interesting one. Before I read this book I knew nothing of Geisha, but now I know exactly what they are and what they do. I think that the audience that would most like this book would be patient people that can stand to read a lot of detail. Also people that like to learn about being a geisha back during World War Two. I would recommend this book and will most likely be reading it again sometime in the near future.
BookwormReflects More than 1 year ago
Memoirs of a Geisha By Arthur Golden In 1929 Sayuri’s mother has fallen ill and her father is no longer able to care for her and her older sister, she is soon sold to a representative of a geisha house in the Kyoto district. The she works as a maid and is trained in music and dance with hopes of becoming a geisha one day. But when she is caught trying to run away she is deemed too much of a risk to continue her training, until an accomplished Geisha decides to take her under her wing and teach her everything she knows to introduce her into the society. As she is an apprentice she comes across a man, the only man that had shown her kindness when she was a child, increasing her determination to become a Geisha and gain his approval. This is not only the story of a Geisha it is the story of Japan during the great depression and during world war two, beautifully written around the struggles of a woman who must work as hard as she can to support herself. The romance is flawless and the drama is poignant and breathtaking this was an amazing read. The movie that followed this book is one of my favorites, though the movie could not come close to the beauty within this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book years ago. Ive never seen the movie but the book is sooooooo good!! A great buy believe me! Definately worth the money!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Looking for a good read that might make you cry, smile, then cry again? Get this!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful easy read. I learned so much about the Japanese and geisha culture through this journey with Sayuri. I loved all the poetic metaphors told throughout the story as well. If you are looking for a light enjoyable read with love, struggles, triumphs, and all the emotions in between this book will not disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wonderful book, so much better than the movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Memoirs of a Geisha' brings the cult of geisha to a vivid expose and new understanding of the geisha regimen and place in history. 'Memoirs of a Geisha' does all of this in a tender, gripping and enlightening manner for those of us in the unknowing of this aspect of Eastern culture. All the elements of human emotion come to the fore, leaving the reader with the paradox of sadness and joy, pleasure with pain, the rescue of an unknown person to the pinnacle of fame, at a high price. This heart rendering story is hauntingly beautiful. One cannot forget easily the geishas of history whose lives of servitude, regimen, and harsh discipline hinged on the whims of fancy and fortune in the power of men of varying degrees of stature. This is a 'must read' for those who, like myself, had misconceived knowledge of the underpinnings and the life of a geisha.
MichelleChung More than 1 year ago
This will always be a favorite of mine! Amazing I tell you! It's just amazing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great informative novel. It was great and the beginning and great at the end, but the middle was a but borning. However, I would reccomend this novel to anyone. It is a great.
hmin More than 1 year ago
a favorite. film and book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LadyJessica More than 1 year ago
Beautiful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Review: a description of my opinion of the book I felt that Arthur Golden did a splendid job creating this whole other that completely differed from his own. Although he did not live the life of a geisha, he expressed what it would have been like from the eyes of a very likable woman. I believe he achieved his goal: to express how geisha aren't like how we as outsiders view them. They aren't prostitutes. They are a culture that have status and respect in the Japanese society. Many others who are on the outside looking in see them as dirty or vile, but in Japan they are great beauties. The author is trying to convey that in his book and I think he does it very well. Other than how well the author illustrated this culture, the book was quite good. the story line was very interesting and I fell in love with little Chiyo's story from the very beginning. We, as readers, had a chance to grow alongside her and see how she matured and developed into a beautiful woman. She was also very relatable. She made mistakes and was imperfect and she was emotionally scarred. I also greatly enjoyed her wit and humor, especially when others didn't understand it. The other characters were quite likable, even Granny. I think that because the story was told from Chiyo's perspective, we get a more personal look and get more invested in her story. This makes me like the book even more.
Madelynn_Jean More than 1 year ago
In this novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, the author, Arthur Golden, does an exceptional job of conveying his purpose of writing this through his extensive research and character development. After 3 complete revisions and over ten redrafts, Arthur Golden finally felt like Memoirs of a Geisha was ready to be seen worldwide. What many people don't know however, is that behind this bestselling novel, over twelve years of research and observation had taken place. Golden spent many years in Japan observing the culture and researching the World War Two history of Japan. Also, he was able to interview many geishas about their lives. While the acts that geishas do are typically considered as a private affair, many of the geishas were open and even welcome to Golden's questions because they were about their daily lives, opinions,and thoughts instead of their private actions. The captivating character development of the geishas in this story is what encouraged me most as the reader to finish it to the very end. By using the first person perspective it was very easy to get swept up into the story line of Chiyo through her trials and good times. It is certainly not an easy thing for a white man in his mid 30's to write in the perspective of a young, Japanese woman in a different time period, but Arthur Golden does it seamlessly. In all honesty, I did not even know that this book was written by a man until I was halfway through the book! His keen insight and observations of his characters really made this book be the standout success that it was! I would easily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an intriguing, raw, and candid story of a girl's journey through all walks of life. Through the terrible times to those of great love and passion, Memoirs of a Geisha was a story I am not likely to forget.