Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

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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 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.

Review:

3 stars. 

I honestly couldn’t find the motivation to finish, I know that is a very bad place to a start review, but I couldn’t. About a hundred and fifty pages into the book and this took a turn for worse. I could no longer read the self-deprecatory tone that she was using. I had such high hopes from this book, considering it was a personal documentation and retelling.

The book starts with nine-year old – Sayuri, realizing her mother has a couple of weeks to live. Sayuri and her sister come from a very poverty ridden house, with the father being the only bread earner. A series of events lead them to go to Kyoto, where they are sold off. One becomes a Geisha and the other, a prostitute. I had initially sympathized and marvelled at the strength these two sisters showed and was very pleased with how the story was going. Some aspects of the Geisha’s story have been fictionalized, but this element of reality kept hitting me. Losing everything and becoming almost to a slave when you’re nine, while showing such presence of mind, was commendable.

My biggest issue with this book is not that she keeps digressing from her original thought-out path, but instead her undermining herself. On more than one occasion she undermines her position as a Geisha while also mentioning the fact that she came in an article – as one of the most famous Geisha’s of all time. Like, seriously lady, modesty is gonna get you nowhere. You need to own up to your own hardships. It is set at the time of Great Depression, so we keep getting little bits of the socio-economic state of Japan, which is sort of a nice digression from the main aim.

One person who totally ruined the book for me was the Chairman. This section might contain some spoilers so I’d want you to jump straight to the end. The Chairman was so infuriatingly revered. Sayuri literally venerated him. I’ll-kiss-your-footsteps-and-places-where-you-walked level veneration. Sayuri, when she’s fourteen meets the chairman, and – stay with me on this one because the Lord knows I am not joking – falls in love with the Chairman. She’s met the man for the first time, and will probably never see him again, but she goes ahead and falls in love. That’s right people, love. She starts fantasizing about him, and from then on everything she does to become a Geisha is for of him.

She literally thinks she’s become a Geisha because of the Chairman, I mean (???).  And to make matters worse, we find out that it was the Chairman who suggested Mameha to talk Sayuri under her wing. Honestly, the most believable character is Hatsumomo. At least she has human, real, associative feelings.

I gave three stars because it was a beautifully written book. And maybe if i were living in 1930s I’d have the whole “white knight” vibe too. I think, I have surpassed the age where I read biographical content which is basically a love story. As a historical insight into Japan and its society, this book is a good read, but as an actual documentation of the Geisha world, it’s not really pleasing to a 21st century female reader.

-Peace

-Painting stories.

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