Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

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

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Title:Memoirs of a Geisha
Author:Arthur Golden
Rating:
ISBN:1400096898
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages:512 pages

Memoirs of a Geisha Reviews

  • Liz Lynch
    Sep 09, 2007

    Like eating fancy dessert at a gourmet restaurant,

    is beautiful, melts lightly off the tongue and will be forgotten shortly after it's done. The language is strikingly lovely, and Golden paints a remarkable picture of a time and place.

    If you're looking to learn something deep about the psychology of Japanese culture, or meet nuanced characters, then I'd steer you elsewhere. The story only skims the top of the more complicated aspects of a Japan in decline, focusing mostly on

    Like eating fancy dessert at a gourmet restaurant,

    is beautiful, melts lightly off the tongue and will be forgotten shortly after it's done. The language is strikingly lovely, and Golden paints a remarkable picture of a time and place.

    If you're looking to learn something deep about the psychology of Japanese culture, or meet nuanced characters, then I'd steer you elsewhere. The story only skims the top of the more complicated aspects of a Japan in decline, focusing mostly on a genteel lifestyle that probably seems more appealing from the outside. There's a way in which the book, written by a man and a westerner, is slightly fetishistic, but less so than you might imagine.

    Another reader suggested that perhaps the superficiality of the story is intentional, and that the book, in a way, resembles a geisha. Beautiful and eager to please, yet too distant to really learn much from and ultimately little more than a beautiful, well-crafted object to be appreciated. If that's the case, Arthur Golden is remarkably clever, and I applaud him. If it's not the case, the book remains very pretty and an easy read.

  • Megan B.
    Feb 13, 2008

    The world of Geisha is a secret and forbidden world. The shell is beautiful and seems to be a life of luxury, but the core is pure suffering. Geisha do not love, they do not choose their fate, and their life is owned by the men they entertain. They are not meant to feel. The very word geisha means moving art. That’s all they’re meant to be. Not humans but paintings. Like a sculpture, beautiful but cold as the stone their made of. Memoirs of a Geisha is a book that is based on a true story and le

    The world of Geisha is a secret and forbidden world. The shell is beautiful and seems to be a life of luxury, but the core is pure suffering. Geisha do not love, they do not choose their fate, and their life is owned by the men they entertain. They are not meant to feel. The very word geisha means moving art. That’s all they’re meant to be. Not humans but paintings. Like a sculpture, beautiful but cold as the stone their made of. Memoirs of a Geisha is a book that is based on a true story and let’s us catch a glimpse of the world where the women paint their faces and don’t deserve to love.

    Based in the 1920’s in Kyoto, Japan a young girl named Chiyo lives with her sister Satsu, in a poor town called Yoriodo along with her sick mother and elderly father.

    Her father sells Chiyo and her sister to Mr. Tanaka to be taken to an office where they decide that Chiyo will become Geisha for her good looks and blue eyes but Satsu will be taken to a prostitution house in the pleasure district. Chiyo is taken to the Nitta okiya (Geisha House) to become a Maiko (apprentice geisha). She breaks her leg from trying to run away and her training is stopped. Chiyo is then told that both of her parents have died. She meets the Chairmen of Iwamura Electric Company and falls in love with him. She dedicates her life for him to become her danna (not a husband but similar, the danna gives geisha kimono, and money to afford an apartment. Danna are usually wealthy men). Hatsumomo is the lead Geisha in the Okiya and is jealous of Chiyo’s good looks and the attention she gets. Thus, she treats Chiyo like the dirt she walks on. The only person in the okiya kind to Chiyo is Pumpkin, an aspiring geisha the same age as Chiyo. Her dream is to be adopted by oka-san (owner of the okiya) and be the lead geisha of the okiya. Mameha, a renowned geisha, comes to the okiya to offer to be Chiyo’s onee-san (older sister). She teaches Chiyo all of the secrets to becoming a great geiko or geisha. She is no longer known as Chiyo but, Sayuri. Sayuri meets Mameha’s danna, the Baron. He takes an unusual interest in Sayuri, and when she goes to the cherry blossom festival held at his estate he brings her into his quarters. He presents to her, a beautiful kimono. He offers to give the kimono to her if she merely would take hers off. Sayuri panics and the Baron starts removing her obi. He did not violate her, just merely looked at her. Rumors spread that Sayuri is now a worthless Meiko (Meiko must be virgins for their mizuage; their first sexual experience which is sold to the highest bidder). With her debut not far away Sayuri has to mend all wounds with the patrons who heard the rumors that Hatsumomo spread. The bidding begins and Dr. Crab, one of Sayuri’s patrons, wins her mizuage. Sayuri then becomes a geisha, and unexpectedly is adopted by oka-san and is the head of the okiya. Pumpkin is extremely upset for that was her dream. Sayuri is given yet another name, Nitta Sayuri (taking the name of the okiya is a custom in the geisha world). She then obtains a danna, a general in the army whom she doesn’t really like.

    War is declared on Japan. Sayuri’s danna leaves to fight in the war and is killed. Nobu, a patron and good friend, takes Sayuri into hiding in northern Japan. She lives there for years working at a dye factory owned by Nobu’s friend. Nobu comes for her and offers to become her danna. Sayuri, still in love with the Chairman, doesn’t know what to say. Nobu says that before she answers Sayuri and Pumpkin need to entertain a party with an American general to try and make peace. She accepts and tries to look like the geisha she was years before. Nobu clearly doesn’t like the General so Sayuri uses the general to make Nobu hate her. Sayuri tells Pumpkin to bring Nobu to the warehouse later at night. Sayuri brings the General with her and starts to be intimate with him. The door opens and instead of bringing Nobu as Sayuri asked, Pumpkin brought the Chairmen! The Chairmen sees and walks away. Sayuri runs to Pumpkin and asks why she would bring the Chairmen. Pumpkin says that Sayuri stole the one thing that she wanted, to be adopted by oka-san. She took what Sayuri wanted as vengeance.

    Sayuri is depressed. She almost certainly lost the one she loved. She gets invited to a small get together and is surprised to find that the only person in the tea house is the Chairmen. He begins by saying that Nobu was supposed to come but heard about what happened and now is livid at her. He continues that he was the one who told Nobu because he understood Sayuri’s intentions. He says that Pumpkin explained and begins to kiss Sayuri. He confesses his love to her and offers to become her danna.

    A danna is not a husband. Danna’s are usually married and have a geisha as a mistress. No matter how much she would like to marry the Chairmen she can’t. Sayuri moves to America because of a feud with who would inherit the Iwamura Electric Company, the Chairmen’s son-in-law married to the daughter he had with his wife or a rumored son with his mistress, Sayuri. She moves to New York and the Chairmen visits regularly.

    The book ends with Sayuri saying that the day Mr. Tanaka took her away was the worst and best day of her life. She says, “As a young girl I believed my life would never have been a struggle if Mr. Tanaka hadn’t torn me away from my (house Yoriodo). But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”

    I would highly recommend reading this book. It’s a window into a different world and makes you admire but pity the geisha. ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is an empowering novel that every person should read to appreciate what they have.

  • Juushika
    Mar 26, 2008

    is an American novel, and as such the attempt at West does East, especially on the complex and delicate subject of the geisha, is compelling, interesting, but also heavy-handed and ultimately ineffective (even more so in the case of the film). It is a wonderful introduction to geisha, Japanese culture, and the East for the uninitiated Western reader, and I can see why the book is popular, but I found it disappointing. For the reader already familiar with the culture, western

    is an American novel, and as such the attempt at West does East, especially on the complex and delicate subject of the geisha, is compelling, interesting, but also heavy-handed and ultimately ineffective (even more so in the case of the film). It is a wonderful introduction to geisha, Japanese culture, and the East for the uninitiated Western reader, and I can see why the book is popular, but I found it disappointing. For the reader already familiar with the culture, western influences are all too clear and the book comes off as a bit clunky and imperfect. I also had some problems with the general perception of the characters by readers versus the way the characters were actually portrayed in the book--Memoirs is far from the good-willed fairy tale that people assume it is. By all means, read it, but leave it open for critique and remember that a more authentic representation of eastern culture, especially in the details, will come from the east itself.

    A lot of my critique stems from the fact that this movie has attained such wide-spread fame and been made into a movie, to be sure. I feel like it is being perpetuated as something it is not. Even the introduction to the book (a faux translator's note) perpetuates the myth that Memoirs is an accurate, beautiful, in-depth reflection of the life of a geisha, when in truth it is no more that historical fiction and is written by an outsider. Golden has done his research and is well-educated on his subjects, and I have no problem with people reading from, taking interest in, and even learning from this book; I do, however, think it is important that readers don't conflate the American novel with Japanese reality. They aren't the same thing, no matter how much research Golden did, and if we take the book as an accurate representation we're actually underestimating and undervaluing geisha, Japan, and Japanese culture.

    Because Golden attempts to write from within the geisha culture, as a Japanese woman, he must do more than report the "facts" of that life--he must also pretend to be a part of it. Pretend he does, acting out a role as if he has studied inflection, script, and motivation. He certainly knows what makes writing "Japanese" but his attempt to mimic it is not entirely successful. The emphasis on elements, the independent sentences, the visual details are too prevalent and too obvious, as if Golden is trying to call our attention to them and thus to the Japanese style of the text. He does manage to draw attention, but to me, at least, what I came away with was the sense that Golden was an American trying really hard to sound Japanese--that is, the effect betrayed the attempt and the obvious attempt ruined the sincerity of the novel, for me. I felt like I was being smacked over the head with beauty! wood! water! kimono! haiku! and I felt insulted and disappointed.

    The problems that I saw in the text were certainly secondary to the purpose of the text: to entertain, to introduce Western readers to Japanese culture, and to sell books (and eventually a film). They may not be obvious to all readers and they aren't so sever that the book isn't worth reading. I just think readers need to keep in mind that what Golden writes is fiction. Historical fiction, yes, but still fiction, therefore we should look for a true representation of Japanese culture within Japanese culture itself and take Memoirs with a grain of salt.

    I also had problems with the rushed end of the book, the belief that Sayuri is a honest, good, modest, generous person when she really acts for herself and at harm to others throughout much of the book, the perpetuation of Hatsumomo as unjustified and cruel when she has all the reason in the world, and in general the public belief that Memoirs is some sort of fairy tale when in fact it is heavy-handed, biased, and takes a biased or unrelatistic view toward situations, characters, and love. However, all of those complains are secondary, in my view, to the major complain above, and should be come obvious to the reader.

    Memoirs goes quickly, is compelling, and makes a good read, and I don't want to sound too unreasonably harsh on it. However, I believe the book has a lot of faults that aren't widely acknowledged and I think we as readers need to keep them in mind. This is an imperfect Western book, and while it may be a fun or good book it is not Japanese, authentic, or entirely well done.

  • T.J.
    May 13, 2008

    Damn if you aren't one of the most problematic things I've ever read, Memoirs of a Geisha.

    Like much of non-Asian America, I was swept up in the delight of reading this book in 2000. I was fifteen and precocious, and the narrative was arresting. I couldn't put the book down. I wrote this in 2000:

    "Golden has hit pay dirt with this masterpiece. An insightful, curious, and caring look into the mysterious world of geisha, Arthur Golden peels away the ignorance and labeling that westerners have covere

    Damn if you aren't one of the most problematic things I've ever read, Memoirs of a Geisha.

    Like much of non-Asian America, I was swept up in the delight of reading this book in 2000. I was fifteen and precocious, and the narrative was arresting. I couldn't put the book down. I wrote this in 2000:

    "Golden has hit pay dirt with this masterpiece. An insightful, curious, and caring look into the mysterious world of geisha, Arthur Golden peels away the ignorance and labeling that westerners have covered the secretive Japanese profession. Although it sinks at times into a near melodramatic prose, the book's protagonist is interesting, insightful, and enjoyable. Her witty anecdotes and thoughtful mannerisms in speaking make Memoirs of a Geisha a delightful and unstoppable read."

    Then I got older, went to college and graduate school, and developed a critical, thinking eye.

    And I'm mad at myself.

    Really? God, I was naive. This novel, while entertaining is so problematic I rarely have time to descend into my criticism. It continues the

    that

    loathed so very much; rather than "skillfully entering" the world of a Japanese woman, it apes her identity, and ultimately deprives her of a voice, creating a sort of Orientalist imagination for us to enjoy without ever really seeing her. The book is still engaging as a narrative, but the sappy ending, the frankly sexist portrayals at some points, and Sayuri's outright inability to identify outside of her Chairman is rather frightening. It serves to objectify fetishism at its worst. Yet I can only give you three stars, because I'm still partly under your spell, Golden. Damn.

  • Sophia.
    Nov 22, 2011

    So.. Memoirs of a Geisha. I'd been wanting to read that one for a very long time. I had heard so many good things about it. It's supposed to be awesome, and deep, and beautiful, right?

    Wrong. It's not.

    The writing was what bothered me the most. It's pretentious and superficial, and sloooooww and it goes on and on and on and on and on and still, very little happens. In some sort of weird combination, the writing is both superficial and cliché. It feels like Golden thought it would be a good idea

    So.. Memoirs of a Geisha. I'd been wanting to read that one for a very long time. I had heard so many good things about it. It's supposed to be awesome, and deep, and beautiful, right?

    Wrong. It's not.

    The writing was what bothered me the most. It's pretentious and superficial, and sloooooww and it goes on and on and on and on and on and still, very little happens. In some sort of weird combination, the writing is both superficial and cliché. It feels like Golden thought it would be a good idea to emphasize all the Japan-and-nature clichés to the point of ridiculousness : I still can't believe how many times he compares something to the nature. Ironically, it doesn't feel natural at all. It feels forced and weird and and it's very annoying, as it slows down the pacing (which is already very slow) and frequently interrupts the narrator's flow of thoughts.

    Examples? Yes, yes. Because I was so sick and tired of reading for the 40th time how something is LIKE a bird or a snake or whatever, I made a list. Enjoy, people.

    This is how Sayuri narrates the story. Please notice and enjoy how natural this way of thinking sounds :

    I was hoping you'd say that. Here you go!

    So yeah. Just because of that, it can't get more than 2 stars for me. It just can't. It's awful to read.

    And the characters. *SIGH* What can I say about them? Hatsumomo was just a big cliché, and so was Pumpkin, and so was The Chairman.

    They didn't feel real. None of them did. Sayuri on top. So I'm supposed to feel something for her, right? Relate to her somehow. That was impossible. I don't know why, but somehow I was able to relate to Chiyo - but not to Sayuri. Even though they're the same person, I couldn't bring myself to care for Sayuri. As soon as she "grows up" (even though she keeps telling her story with the skills of a freakin' 4 year old) so around the time when she becomes a geisha, that is, she becomes insufferable.

    And she has this sort of weird fascination for adult men, first M. Tanaka and after The Chairman, and it's just so annoying. Why does she like them? Why?

    And, yeah, she was also such a victim. She never made anything to change her condition, she was just this kind of submissive woman who, well, blinks and, I dunno, bows. I know it's the way she's supposed to behave, but still, it's infuriatingly boring to read about such a character. The only thing she ever does for herself is

    but even that is done in the purpose of eventually being with The Chairman. And who was he, that Chairman? Who was that man we hear about, again and again and again? What's he like? Have they ever had a real conversation? I don't think so. She idealizes him, she never sees him as who he really is, she just keeps

    holding that stupid handkerchief every night and that annoyed me. It felt childish and weird.

    The only character I liked was Mameha, and she's the angel of the story, meaning that you're just supposed to like her because she's, well, perfect, kind, loyal and beautiful, the way Agnes is in David Copperfield or Melanie in Gone With The Wind.

    The informations about Geishas were nice, I suppose, but I don't know how much of it is true. The war was awfully, awfully boring, and very badly executed.

    I think you can see it was written by an American just by the way the United States are depicted. They atomically bombarded Japan and two of greatest its cities and yet, Sayuri doesn't even blink and say "The American troups were very kind to us and gave candy to the children." Er... Really?

    The plot dragged on and on, and I had to struggle to finish the book. The ending felt rushed. I hate, hate it when authors do that. He wrote a whole book about someone's life, and the final chapter is soo rushed and it goes like "So that was forty years ago, now I'm seventy and I'm old and I'm gonna tell you what happened in my life between then and now in like, two sentences. So I married the guy I talked so much about, and then we went to live in the USA because that's like ZOMG the best country EVAR! And then he died, and.. Ah yes.. Did we have a kid? Oh, but wouldn't you like to know!.. Well you won't, cause I'm not telling you, neener- neener. Whatever I'm old, and I'm probably gonna die now LIKE A BIRD THAT FLIES AWAY", because what would be the final sentence without a nature-related comparaison, huh? Right. I swear, the book probably deserves an award, for like Worst Ending Chapter Ever or something. It made no sense, it gave no real closure.

    Everything in this book was just so... flat. It tried to be epic and it tried to be a classic but it failed so badly. The characters weren't well fleshed-out, it was obvious that the Good people (Sayuri, Mahema) would triumph over the Bad (Hatsumomo), it was obvious that Sayuri would get her happy ending after all..

    See, all throughout the book, I was completely disconnected, I didn't

    anything. I didn't smile, or laugh, I certainly didn't cry. I can't even say I'm angry or that I

    the book - because hatred requires that I care, and I don't. I'm just... indifferent. Bored. Unimpressed. And isn't it the worst state of mind you can possibly be in after you finish a book? Ultimately, it didn't leave a mark.

    So the book as a whole was a major disappointment and I'm glad it's over. I just hope the movie might be better - I kept thinking it would be better to watch it, seeing how graphic the descriptions were (of the kimonos, for example). [Edit: So I saw the movie. Meeeh.]

    But as a book, it was unconvincing and very flawed.

  • Argona
    Aug 16, 2013

    I became fascinated with Japanese culture when I was a teenage girl and since then I have read many Japanese-related books and articles and have watched many movies and animes that depict parts of Japanese culture but the fact remains that I am not Japanese, I have never been to Japan and I am a foreigner, captivated by this exotic and very different culture.

    As a foreigner, I see many beautiful and unique aspects to Japanese culture but I also know about certain painful historical facts such as

    I became fascinated with Japanese culture when I was a teenage girl and since then I have read many Japanese-related books and articles and have watched many movies and animes that depict parts of Japanese culture but the fact remains that I am not Japanese, I have never been to Japan and I am a foreigner, captivated by this exotic and very different culture.

    As a foreigner, I see many beautiful and unique aspects to Japanese culture but I also know about certain painful historical facts such as treatment of women in certain eras of Japan. My point is, I don’t want to discuss accuracy of this book regarding Geisha life. I am not Japanese and I am not a historian and therefore, I am not qualified to judge. So I keep my opinion and impression Geisha to myself.

    It appears that this story is based on the life of a certain geisha, but the author clearly states that both the story and characters are fictional and I am going to stick with that.

    I admit that I was disappointed when I realized that this turned out to be fiction, only and only because I had been told otherwise by author himself while reading the preface. I mean, what’s with the contradiction? I couldn’t understand the pretense. Why pretend this is a real story when it’s a beautiful fiction? What’s wrong with fiction? I admit, as I reached the end of the book, I came to realize why the author tried to portray this story as a real life story when writing the introduction but I will write about that later.

    I liked the writing style. Some people may find it pretentious but I understood that this is an attempt to write as close as possible to Japanese style of writing and story-telling and to seem poetic. The writing also helped me to see the world through Chiyo’s eyes and better understand her mind. I should mention that Chiyo and Sayuri are the same person.

    Some people may say, parts of the story drag on and on and yet nothing important happens. I quickly get bored but I couldn’t put this book down once I had started reading and I had already seen the movie years ago. This is not a perfect book but it is an amazing one. Little Chiyo simply captivated me with her story.

    I wanted her to survive, to fight and to find happiness. There isn’t a single character in this story that I actually hate. They are all different human-beings with flaws of their own that struggle to survive and get by their hard lives. Some choose to do so by crushing others and some choose to do so by fighting their way through and lending a helping hand when they can.

    I might have had a few explosions regarding treatment of women and the way chiyo’s mind operates if I didn’t know Japanese culture at the time of this story well enough. I have Japanese friends, so I know what I am talking about it.

    Chiyo is quite young when she falls in love with a man much older than her, too young in my opinion to fall in love but I understood her feelings. The moment she meets the love of her life, Chairman, is a turning point in her story and happens to be my most favorite part.

    Yes, she focuses her entire life on reaching this man. As a woman, I would have liked her to have bigger goals and dreams of her own and for example, seek freedom or independence but when I think about her situation, her education and upbringing, I get her.

    Chiyo is a slave, being trained for the sole purpose of pleasuring men. Men that mean nothing to her and are like alien beings. Up to this point, not a single person has shown her any kindness without ill intentions and when she is about to lose her faith in humanity, a man appears out of nowhere and shows her true kindness. Finally, a man means something to her. One of these men that she is supposed to serve has a face and value to her. I am not surprised she made it her life-purpose to reach him. I would have liked her to interact more with him during the course of the story but it wasn’t really necessary. Chairman was the man SHE wanted and SHE desired for herself. Considering her life, that was a big goal. And I didn’t really need to know more about Chairman. He was the symbol of true kindness. Her dedication to reach him was moving and touched me very deeply.

    As I said before, during parts of this story, nothing important really happens, but I was eager to learn more about Geisha life. The author is obviously well-informed and has done his research. The story was interesting enough. All characters seemed real and relatable. I even liked Hatsumomo! And even though I wanted Chiyo to reach the love of her life and therefore happiness more than anything, I liked Nobu a lot too. He was a great man but it’s not like we can change our emotions or how we feel about different people and their behaviors whenever we want to. I could feel Sayuri’s misery and fear as she had to make decisions that would ultimately hurt people dear to her, from Pumpkin to Nobu. Sayuri is simply human. She too acts selfish and neglects her friends. I don’t blame her but I wish she had acted differently at certain times, at least regarding poor Pumpkin.

    I also clearly felt the touch of war and the darkness that spreads over hearts and souls at such a time. The fear, pain and misery as everything changes and there is no longer any certainty to the future.

    I was touched by the relationship between Chairman and Nobu, even though it was only behind the scene and between the lines. Once you think about it, it was a very deep and touching bond. Although poor Sayuri had to suffer because of this very bond, I understood why Chairman had to act the way he did.

    The only part of the book that made me laugh and shake my head at the author, the AMERICAN author, was the part regarding American soldiers throwing candy at children. It was mentioned abruptly and I found it very funny. Two nuclear bombs and this is what Sayuri comments about. Yes, I am sure American soldiers weren’t as scary as they were supposed to be but they were still invaders. It takes time for certain wounds to heal. It’s not about American soldiers. It’s about war, invasion and loss!

    At the end, this is not a fairy-tale. I am a fan of fairy tales and I firmly believe in happy endings. Ironic, since in real life, I am very realistic and even cynical. But when I open a book, I want happy endings. Somewhere along the way, I had started to dream of a fairy-tale style happy ending for little Chiyo and reading the last pages of the book left me a little sad. That’s why as I mentioned above, it was after finishing the book that I understood why the author has tried to sell this story as a real one. All throughout the book, the story tries to remain realistic(Which is why sometimes nothing really happens) and it's important to remember this, when reading the bittersweet ending, Otherwise, the ending might feel a little unsatisfactory and even rushed. But the truth is, the bittersweet ending was still a happy ending, just a realistic one. Still, I wasn’t 100% happy with it. I agree that the author could have done better just by adding 50 pages or so.

    In conclusion, this is the beautiful story of a little innocent girl as she fights her way through life and hardships in an unfair society and struggles to reach her loved one and have a reason to simply wake up every day and live. This is not a fairy tale but it does contain certain elements of those tales therefore this book is not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and find it very memorable and special.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    Nov 28, 2013

    Chiyo, with her sister Satsu, and her mother and father live in a shack by the sea on the coast of Japan. The shack leans, and has to be propped up to keep from total collapse. Her mother is sick and on the verge of death. Her father is a fisherman, uneducated, and generally befuddled by anything that doesn’t have to

    Chiyo, with her sister Satsu, and her mother and father live in a shack by the sea on the coast of Japan. The shack leans, and has to be propped up to keep from total collapse. Her mother is sick and on the verge of death. Her father is a fisherman, uneducated, and generally befuddled by anything that doesn’t have to do with his fishing nets. When a businessman from the village comes to them with an offer to take their girls to the city it doesn’t take much to convince the father that nearly any opportunity is better than staying there in the tilted shack by the sea.

    Or was he? Without a crystal ball or access to a series of timelines showing the variations created by changing key decisions at critical junctures how can we know?

    Satsu, who is fifteen, is promptly placed with a brothel. Not exactly what her father had in mind. I’m sure he was told she would be trained for “domestic service”. Chiyo, who is nine, is deemed young enough to be trained to be a geisha. She is a lovely child with startling rare gray/blue eyes.

    The Mother of her geisha house is equally startling in appearance.

    Obvious a bit of a failing liver issue going on here, but wait she is really much more mugly.

    Okay so Chiyo lets out a gasp. She starts out her new life in trouble.

    It doesn’t end there. She is quickly considered a threat to the lovely and vindictive Hatsumomo who is the only fully trained geisha working for the house. Chiyo is accused of stealing (not true). She is accused of ruining an expensive kimono with ink (true but under duress). She is caught trying to escape ( she broke her arm in the process so try and give the kid a break). Well, all of this ends up costing her two years working as a housemaid when she could have been training as a geisha.

    She receives an unexpected benefactress, a mortal enemy of Hatsumomo named Mameha decides to take Chiyo under her wing and insure that she has another opportunity to become a geisha.

    Chiyo, tired of scrubbing floors and being the do-this and do-that girl of the household realizes her best chance at some form of freedom is to elevate herself.

    At age 15 her virginity or mizuage is put up for auction. It is hard not to think of this as a barbaric custom, but for a geisha, if a bidding war erupts, she can earn enough money to pay off all the debts that have accumulated for her training. Chiyo, now called Sayuri, is fortunate to have two prominent men wanting to harvest her flower. The winner is Dr. Crab who paid a record amount for the privilege.

    Not the vision that any girl would have for her first time, but ultimately it is a business transaction that frees Sayori from the bonds of debt. After the deed is done,

    , Dr. Crab brought out a kit filled with bottles that would have made

    jealous. Each bottle has a blood sample, soaked in a cotton ball or a piece of towel of every geisha he has ever treated including the blood from his couplings for their virginity. He cuts a piece of blood soaked towel that was under Sayori and added it to the bottle with her name.

    Ewwehhh! with a head snapping *shiver*.

    The cultural obsession, every country seems to have one, with female virginity is simply pathological. Girls can’t help, but be fearful of the process. Not strapped to a table by a serial killer type fear, but still there has to be that underlying hum as the man prepares to enter her. I wonder if men, especially those who avidly pursue the deflowering of maidens, are getting off on that fear? I’ve made myself feel a little queasy now.

    Sayori is on her way to a successful career. She is in love with a man called The Chairman and wishes that he will become her danna, a patron, who can afford to keep a geisha as a mistress. There are people in the way, keeping them from being together, and so even though there were many geishas who wished for her level of success she still couldn’t help feeling sad.

    It was fascinating watching this young girl grow up in such a controlling environment; and yet, a system that can also be very deadly. One misstep, one bit of scandal, and many geishas found themselves ostracized by the community. They could very easily find themselves in a brothel. During WW2 the geisha community was disbanded, and the girls had to find work elsewhere. Sayori was fortunate. Despite all the hardships I know she was enduring, Arthur Golden chose not to dwell on them in great detail. I was surprised by this because authors usually want and need to press home those poignant moments, so that when the character emerges from the depths of despair the reader can have a heady emotional response to triumph over tragedy.

    I really did feel like I was sitting down for tea with Sayori, many years later, and she, as a way of entertaining me, was telling me her life story. Golden interviewed a retired geisha by the name of Mineko Iwasaki who later sued him for using too much of her life story to produce this book. She even had light brown eyes not as striking as Sayori's blue/gray eyes, but certainly light enough to be unusual. I wonder if Iwasaki was still the perfect geisha, keeping her story uplifting, and glossing over the aspects that could make her company uncomfortable.

    The book is listed in the

    . It was also made into a film, which I’ve been avoiding, knowing that I wanted to read the book first. I notice some reviewers take issue with Sayori. They feel she did not assert herself, and take control of her life. She does in the end, but she is patient, and waits for a moment when she can predict the outcome. I feel that she did what she needed to do to survive. Most of the time she enjoyed being a geisha. It takes a long time to learn not only the ways to entertain, but also all the rigid traditions that must be understood to be a successful geisha. As she gets older, and can clearly define the pitfalls of her actions, we see her manipulating the system in her favor.

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  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
    Dec 09, 2013

    I read this book back when it first came out. I never wrote a review of it because when I first joined GR I didn't really know what it was all about. It took a bit before it sunk in for me.

    Now GR members get spammed at times. The newest form of spam is review bumping. I didn't even know that existed because..well I'm a slow learner. I kept noticing the same person's reviews on my thread. Several times a day. All day. For weeks. Someone finally pointed out to me that they are bumping their review

    I read this book back when it first came out. I never wrote a review of it because when I first joined GR I didn't really know what it was all about. It took a bit before it sunk in for me.

    Now GR members get spammed at times. The newest form of spam is review bumping. I didn't even know that existed because..well I'm a slow learner. I kept noticing the same person's reviews on my thread. Several times a day. All day. For weeks. Someone finally pointed out to me that they are bumping their reviews. Then I saw several status updates from people posting about how it was driving them bonkers.

    Now my friend

    decided to take a stand..she made a awesome little badge to show we are all fabulous..not just the top reviewers, and my friend

    has a great idea..we are gonna spread some love. Everyone on GR is Goodreads Fabulous.

    Here's my friend

    review for this book. Her's is much better than anything I could have written..Go show her some love.

    Argona..you are Goodreads Famous baby!

  • Khadidja
    Nov 20, 2015

    Very interesting,entertaining, and quick to read! Chiyo/Sayuri and her sister Satsu were sold into slavery at the age of 9 by their father, Sayuri tells of her traumatic arrival at the Nitta okiya (a geisha house), where she endures harsh treatment from everyone, In spite of the problems she had to face, Sayuri became the beautiful geisha accomplished in the art of entertaining men.

    “He was like a song I'd heard once in fragments but had been singing in my mind ever since.”

    “Can't you see? Every s

    Very interesting,entertaining, and quick to read! Chiyo/Sayuri and her sister Satsu were sold into slavery at the age of 9 by their father, Sayuri tells of her traumatic arrival at the Nitta okiya (a geisha house), where she endures harsh treatment from everyone, In spite of the problems she had to face, Sayuri became the beautiful geisha accomplished in the art of entertaining men.

    “He was like a song I'd heard once in fragments but had been singing in my mind ever since.”

    “Can't you see? Every step I have taken, since I was that child on the bridge, has been to bring myself closer to you.”

  • Henry Avila
    Jun 01, 2016

    In a small Japanese fishing village of Yoroido, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, a child Chiyo Sakamoto, 9, lives with an ancient father, dying mother, and older sister Satsu, in a dilapidated home, leaning over a cliff, the year 1929, things are tough and will get harder, as the Great Depression is about to commence...the impoverished family needs help and the two sisters are sold. Pretty Chiyo, with beautiful eyes, to become a geisha after a long apprenticeship and the unlucky, plain Satsu, a

    In a small Japanese fishing village of Yoroido, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, a child Chiyo Sakamoto, 9, lives with an ancient father, dying mother, and older sister Satsu, in a dilapidated home, leaning over a cliff, the year 1929, things are tough and will get harder, as the Great Depression is about to commence...the impoverished family needs help and the two sisters are sold. Pretty Chiyo, with beautiful eyes, to become a geisha after a long apprenticeship and the unlucky, plain Satsu, an abused prostitute....In a house that never becomes a home, in the former royal capital of Kyoto, in the section called Gion, where most geisha live, and the tea houses to entertain rich men, there, the scared girl is under the complete control of three money- hungry women, who show no pity, Granny, (she has coins in her heart) the matriarch, and her two adopted daughters, Mother, the real boss, and Auntie, they love nicknames, both are as unfeeling as Granny. The only genuine geisha in residence, is stunning Hatsumomo, as beautiful as she is detestable, and takes an odd, instant hatred to the little girl and torments her nonstop. One day while doing an errand, the child starts crying in the streets, her miserable life has no joy, a man known as the chairman , the owner of an important electronics business, stops and comforts Chiyo, leaving her, his monogrammed handkerchief, it will be the most prized possession, the girl has, at last, someone cares... she falls in love, and this will remain forever. After an aborted escape try with her sister, she falls from the roof of a neighbor's house, injuring herself, things become even more dismal, Chiyo is demoted to a lowly maid in the house, no more school to learn her profession, to the elation of cruel Hatsumomo. Still life is cloudy, and is never foreseen, even the fortune -tellers, the geisha go to, often, can't predict accurately... the most successful , glamorous, admired geisha in Kyoto , Mameha, becomes her "Big Sister", a mentor that can help any woman rise to the top, how strange. Her name is changed later to "Sayuri", she returns to school, becomes a fine dancer and does a solo, at the annual celebrations in the local theater, her poster is painted by a famous alcoholic artist in town, the career prospers, but the chairman, that Sayuri constantly meets in the tea house parties, ( where the men get drunk on Sake, listen to stories told, watch the singing, the dancing, and music played by the geisha) is rather distant, and doesn't recognize the grown- up woman ... Gruff Nobu, scarred and disabled, in a war, the chairman's best friend, and second -in -command , at the electronics firm, likes Chiyo/Sayuri , he, her love, can never interfere, too much respect for his colleague, and they are so close, it is a sad, hopeless situation for Chiyo/ Sayuri ... The years roll by, and war is on the horizon, change is coming, it always is...the now renowned geisha, awaits...The most famous, popular, geisha, Mineko Iwasaki, now retired, ( one of the characters is based on her, in the novel) greatly helped Mr. Arthur Golden , in research, revealing to him, in confidence, the secrets of the mysterious life of these women , for the first time, much to her later regret...