Published on: June 4th 1998
Genres: Historical Fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This story is a rare and utterly engaging experience. It tells the extraordinary story of a geisha – summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan’s dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation.
A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Her memoirs conjure up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha – dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the land’s most powerful men.
I loved this book. It was very impactful and heart breaking at places, and a beautiful read. The first 90% of this book was so great but the last 10% disappointed me. Because of this last 10% I had to unfortunately lower the rating from 5 stars to 4 stars. Before I go into why this last 10% disappointed me, I would first like to talk about what I liked in this book.
What I Liked:
Memoirs of a Geisha was a very engaging read and I just couldn’t stop reading this book till I reached the very last page.
I learned so much about Geishas through this book. Did you know there was(I don’t know if there still is) actually a school only for Geishas where teachers used to teach dancing, playing different instruments, etc? This book also helped me clear a lot of misconceptions that I had about the Geishas. I have seen a lot of places questioning the historical accuracy of the Geisha culture portrayed in this book. They are questioning this historical accuracy because they think that Geishas in this book were portrayed as sex workers, but in my opinion I don’t think whatever I read in this book ever portrayed Geishas as sex workers.
Apart from Geisha culture, through this book we also get to know about some Japanese culture too, like things about teahouses, and other few things. I love knowing about different cultures, so I really liked this.
Another thing I really liked about this book was the character of Chiyo or Sayuri. I was able to relate to her, to her feelings and thoughts immensely. Chiyo’s triumphs became my triumphs, her failures, my failures. If something hurt her, it broke my heart too.
Chiyo’s character had such an impact on me. I think she was a very brave and resilient girl. Though there was this one thing I couldn’t agree with her on but still I liked her character.
Two other characters I really liked were Mameha and Auntie’s character. Auntie is someone who has faced a lot of hardships in her life and has accepted the things as they were but still she was kind and caring. And Mameha was someone I really liked, if you read the book you will know how important a role she played in little Chiyo’s life. I really really liked Mameha’s character. She was a mentor we all deserve. I guess you can call some of her choices morally not correct but still you have to agree that she did everything she could to make Chiyo a success.
Arthur Golden in this book also talked about how war affected the lives of the people of Japan. It was only for a few pages but it had a lasting impact on me, as a reader. I am so happy that the author touched upon this topic of Japanese history.
What I didn’t like:
So now lets talk about the last 10% and why it disappointed me. When I think about it I feel that because the first 90% impressed me so much I was this disappointed with the rest 10%. There was this one twist that happened near the end which in my opinion was something that can never happen in real life. One might argue that this incident was a heartwarming touch to the mostly sad-ish rest of the novel, but in my opinion this twist should not have been introduced, it just diluted the overall atmosphere of the book. Apart for this one twist the rest part of this last 10% was averagey not great as the rest 90% of the book. So overall this last 10% disappointed a lot.
There was another thing I kind of didn’t like. I just wished that some more time was devoted to Chiyo’s thoughts about her father, the person who betrayed her deeply.
Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautifully written book, which was heartbreaking and hard hitting at a lot of places. I would love to recommend this book to everyone.
Have you read Memoirs of a Geisha? Did you like it?