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I read this book after watching the film one Christmas and have since read it 5 more times. The book tells a story of a little girl called Chiyo from a fishing village in Japan who is sold to an Okiya to be a maid, but who is then trained to become a Geisha. She has the most unusual blue (the colour of water) eyes and is seen as a threat to an already blossoming and popular geisha called Hatsumomo. She is given a new name of Sayuri and takes the geisha world by storm.
Through her troubled years, she still keeps faith that she will one day meet the kind gentleman (The Chairman) she met many years before and after the war she happens upon him and he provides the feelings she needs for her own destiny.
It is a moving, yet inspiring love story that finds Sayuri fighting with her emotions. You will not want to put the book down.
I found this book in a charity shop for 50p. I had seen the film advertised but I'd never taken the time to go and watch it. I wasn't expecting too much from the book (as generally I'm not a fan of stories which are then turned into films) but I was very impressed - I couldn't put this down!
It was so fascinating. I know nothing about the Japenese culture and so to read a story about it I thought would be difficult, however the author explains each detail in such a way that you feel you know all about it. The story is so emotional and touching, I found myself upset when Sayuri (the main character) was upset, and happy when she was happy. Incredibly powerful and moving - A must read in my opinion!
If you're frightened of not understanding, don't be. You'll be happy you took the plunge and gave it a go, I promise!
I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden about five or six years before it was made into a movie; I am so glad I did, because that way the story was fresh in my mind and the book wasn't spoiled by the film (which in my opinion was very poor, considering how absolutely wonderful the book was).
The cover of my book, being pre-movie, is a stark, white lower part of a Geisha's face, with only the bright red lips visible. It says 'Memoirs of a Geisha' with the word 'Geisha' significantly larger in a calligraphic font. I much prefer this book cover to the movie book cover, which is dark and not as pretty. But, as they say, you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover!
It is available in paperback from all good retailers - WHSmith, Waterstones, even HMV sometimes have copies of it. I believe my copy cost around £6.99 as it was close to it's original publication date. Nowadays with the internet, specifically Amazon.com, you can pick it up under five pounds. It's worth every penny.
The book remains, a good ten years after I first read it, in my top five favourite books of all time. I read a lot of books, at least one a week, so this is no mean feat. Like most people I revisit my favourite books over and over again, reading them in their entirety at least once a year. Which explains why my much-loved copy of Memoirs of a Geisha is tattered, yellow, and worn. I'd never part with it.
The book tells the story of a little girl called Chiyo, who at the start of her life, and the book, lives a simple existence in a little wooden house in a fishing village with her mother, father and sister. Her mother is very sick, and Chiyo's father makes the decision to sell little Chiyo and her sister Satsu to an Okiya (place where Geisha live) in Gion, where he hopes they will be looked after and be raised to be successful Geisha, with their education included and futures assured. A life of relative luxury.
There are a lot of misconceptions in modern society about what a true Geisha really is. A Geisha is not a prostitute - she may associate intimately with only one man her entire career - who pays handsomely to be her effective husband, even going through a binding ceremony to mark the connection. The rest of the time, a Geisha entertains groups of gentlemen with drinking games, dance and shamisen recitals (a type of Japanese string instrument), and even Kabuki play recitals. They are paid hourly to do nothing but look beautiful and provide entertainment.
Chiyo doesn't find it easy and doesn't want to become a Geisha. She wants to go back to her family, and is bullied mercilessly by the notoriously evil (but equally beautiful) Hatsumomo, an established Geisha living in her Okiya. She serves initially as the maid to the Okiya, and is split up from her sister.
Everything changes when Chiyo meets a tall, dark, handsome and older man in the form of The Chairman. In her life of sorrow he is the first person to show her kindness and compassion.
Chiyo devotes her life to becoming a Geisha in the hope she may meet this enchanting man again. And that's as far into the book as I am going to go because I simply don't want to spoil it for you.
The book covers Chiyo (who's name is changed once she begins her apprenticeship) throughout her career, her loves, her losses, and throughout the War. It is a very detailed book and engages the reader so well, all credit to Arthur Golden, as his vast knowledge of Gion, Japanese history and culture adds a rich believablilty to the book, pushes a life into the dusty pages of history, and makes them real. It is historically accurate in every respect (which the movie was not), and actually teaches the reader without them feeling like they are ever in a lesson. Moreso, you feel that you grow at the same rate as Chiyo.
I can honestly say that in terms of books which actually make a difference to how you feel, this book had a profound effect on me. I was 17 when I read this book, not well travelled, and had yet to understand the meaing of love. I feel that the book not only opened up a culture to me that I was so very removed from, but it also taught me about morals, manners and deep emotions. I have recommended this book to everyone I have ever had a literary discussion with and I am recommending it to you. There are few books which move me like Memoirs of a Geisha did, in it's depth and it's feeling, but I can honestly say that on turning the final page there are always tears in my eyes.
Whether you have seen the movie or not, I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a solid, well-researched, deep, all-involving book. It clearly took Arthur Golden years to research and write and that is plainly obvious in how absolutely perfect every single aspect of it is. It is never far-fetched, never dull, never predictable. In fact you first time you read it, when everything falls into place, you'll be astounded.
This book is simply breathtaking.
I have been reading a variety of books since I was very little, and to date this is my favourite! It may not be the most intellectual book, or the most historically correct, but it is one of those novels I return to time and time again when I have nothing else to read, or when I find myself wanting the comfort of a story which is delightfully familiar, yet constantly surprising!
This is a relatively long novel, and one which follows the life and journey of a young girl growing up and becoming a Geisha. It is one of those stories where you get to a certain point and you think back to events which have previously happened in the novel, and you think, 'Wow, that feels like a life time ago!" For me, this is the mark of a good book with good characters. Throughout the novel you feel as if you are journeying through life with the characters, so that when you look back it really feels as though you have grown into a new life with them.
Obviously taste in books is a very personal thing. This book is not ideal if you like a lot of action and fast paced drama, or are extremely choosy when it comes to factually correct novels. It is a long novel, full of emotion and both shockingly awful and joyous events. Personally I adore this book and have read it so much my copy is falling apart! If I had to take one book to a desert island I would chose this novel, as it just never gets boring! There is a always a detail or event which you have forgotten since your last read!
I would definitely recommend this book if you are open to a long and intricately planned story! I find it to be beautifully written which keeps the story fresh considering its length. I have not seen the film and I do not want to as this book is so visual and emphatic I already have the story and characters formed in my head, and I don't want to ruin it! This is an irreplaceable novel in my collection!
Memoirs of A Geisha is a lovely read.
A story of a little girl, Chiyo, who is sold to a geisha house in Gion, struggling to make it after the death of her mother and father and her sister being sold to a "whore house" on the other side of the city. Chiyo runs away, and is taken out of Geisha school by the mother of her okiya, and is doomed to spend the rest of her life as a maid, until one of the most renowned Geisha in all of Japan turns up on the doorstep and offers to be her "older sister".
Chiyo then under takes her training as a geisha again, after two years absence at the Geisha School. She later becomes known as Sayuri, and one of the most succesfull geisha.
If you like atmosphere, scenery and detail, then this is the book for you. Reading this, I can almost taste the Green Tea, smell the cherry blossom and feel the silk of the kimono's. I can hear the characters voices, and feel their emotions.
This book is consistent, dense and very, very informative.
Not only do you get an insight into the life of a geisha, but you also learn about the practices and rules of the era.
A novel by Arthur Golden, published in 1997.
I read this book about 8 years ago whilst in 6th form as I was recommended to read it by a close friend. I was never that interested as it seemed a bit 'chic-lit' but am so glad I gave it a go. When I started it could not put it down and read it obsessively until I finished it about 2 days later.
It is written as though it is a real account of a girl's life as a Geisha working in Kyoto during World War II.
Soon after her mother died, Chiyo (the protagonist of the novel) and her older sister are taken away from their small village and split up. Her sister is sold to a brothel and Chiyo is sold to an okiya, a house for geisha.
Through the course of the novel we see Chiyo develop from what can be described as no more than a slave a servant in the Geisha house to an apprentice Geisha under the influence of Kyoto'smost sucessful Geisha into a fully fledged succesful working woman.
The novel is accurate in the representation of the Geisha lifestyle. How the Geisha's virginity becomes a commodity, up for sale for men to bid for and buy. How even though they are known as entertainers in reality they are little more than glorified prostitues although sex is not their main trade. Their purpose is to entertain men and only be seen and heard when summond.
I was suprised after reading this that is was not a true life account but fiction, a novel based on the acocunts of women who had been geisha.
It wa an eye opener on a world I had never really thought about and I now recommend it to all of my friends. A really good read.
I picked this book up cheap in a charity shop whilst on holiday as I had forgotten to take any reading material with me. I didn't really know anything about this book before I bought it but simply picked it up as I had heard of the name. Having never been to Japan or known anything of geisha before reading this book, I found the book fascinating as it was like entering into another world. I have to admit that whilst reading this book I struggled to work out whether or not it was ficton or non ficton as the book transports you to Gion in Japan and into the world of geisha as you're reading it.
The story is based on a geisha called Sayuri Nitta and starts when she was a young girl living in a small fishing village in Japan. During a difficult time when her mother was dying her father sold her and her older sister to a local business man. The business man transported her to Gion and sold her to a giesha house where she was bullied by the main giesha of the house and used as a servant. However, Sayuri soon started to get the attention of men and encountered the "Chairman" who would change her live forever by showing her a little kindness. Sayuri's live ambition became to see and get to know the Chairman better. As she grew older to became an apprentice geisha and send to a little school to learn about entertaining men in teahouses. During this part of the book, the reader is fully informed about the life of geisha and the training they encounter to become of popular geisha.
Whilst still being bullied by the main geisha in her household, Sayuri is getting a lot fo attention by the men of Gion and many wish to become her "danna" - for her to become their mistress. The giesha house "mother" realises that she can make a lot of money from Sayuri's dealings and adopts Sayuri as her daughter. Mother would take a large percentage of Sayuri's earnings now that she had adopted her, therefore it is clear to see that Mother sees Sayuri purely as a business venture.
After Sayuri meets a businessman called Nobu, he becomes extremely interested in her and shows much kindness. However, even though Sayuri appreciates the kindness shown by Nobu she doesn't wish him to become her danna as he is a close contact of the Chairman. If a geisha takes a danna she cannot be friendly with his contacts or hope for any of her dannas contacts to become her danna later in life. Therefore, she realises that Nobu were to become her danna she would be losing her sole ambition in life.
I won't ruin the end for anyone who hasn't yet read this book and wishes to, therefore I will omit the ending of this story from my review.
I would greatly recommend anyone to read this book as it is a fascinating story of a world many know little about. I can imagine that this would be a great read for anyone about the visit Japan or whilst in Japan. The author has really captured the memoirs beautifully and it stirs the imagination of the reader.
Arthur Golden - Memoirs of a Geisha
Another book that has been made into a film, not 100% on the film but i did like this book. Most of the books i have reviewed so far have usually gotten 5 stars but i dont feel this book was as good. First published in 1997 it is a interesting book providing insight into the Japanese Culture.
The main character is Chiyo Sakamoto, the youngest daughter of a poor fisherman and a dying mother in a fishing village called Yoroido in Japan. Mameha, her mentor and a geisha. Hutsumomo, a mean selfish geisha who lives in the same Okiya as Chiyo, and Pumpkin, a girl Chiyo's age.
Chiyo Sakamoto and her sister Satsu get sold by their father, both to different places. Chiyo is sold to an Okiya in Gion where she begins with Pumpkin to train and be a Geisha. Eventually through many trials, Chiyo becomes a Geisha with the help of her Mentor and 'older sister' Mameha and changes her name to Sayuri. The first half of the story is how she becomes a geisha and the rest is how she survived WW2 and the American invasion of Japan.
Its written as if Chiyo/Sayuri is telling her story to you, Memoirs of a Geisha tells tells you a lot about the culture of Geisha and other aspects of Japanese Culture in the time that this book is set.
Although i do recommend this book as a good read and it does have many good aspects, i didn't find the book as interesting as i thought i would; and as for the film i only watched it because i wanted to see it in comparison to the book but i must say i wasn't completely satifised with either.
I actually got my hands on this book when i was in a rented serviced apartment where i had nothing much to do when my 9 month old son goes to sleep. So i just looked around and saw a bunch of books left by the owner for her tenants.How sweet right.
The cover as everyone will agree was catchy and so thought of looking into it. It was all about the girl on the cover, how she became a successful giesha, how she overcame her fate , realized her goal and went after it.
As i started reading until i finished i got the picture just like a real life incident until in the last page i read about how Mr Arthur Golden has wrote this fiction. I read the book without loosing enthusiasm at any point that at times i felt so sorry for the girl that i cried. The authors goal to touch a readers heart has been achieved.
Even though it is now in the motion pictures i like to watch these type of movies only after reading the original novel so that i can get the whole essence of the story.
I'm sure many of you will have heard of the book, Memoirs of a Geisha, just as I have. I've never really had much of an interest in the book, probably because my usual novel of choice would be crime fiction and also due to my lack of understanding of the Geisha and Japanese culture. However, I found a slightly tatty copy of this book in a local book sale for 25p and decided to broaden my horizons!
The story begins in 1929 during the great depression. Yoroido, a small peasant fishing village, is home to Chiyo, her elder sister Satsu and her mother and father. From a young age, Chiyo seems so aware of the world she lives in, describing her little 'tipsy' house built on a cliff to perfection and really giving you a strong feel for her happiness there, although there was very little money or food. The bond between Chiyo and her mother is very strong and Chiyo has inherited her mother's eyes, a remarkable grey/blue colour. Unfortunately, her mother becomes seriously ill and life takes a dramatic turn for little seven year old Chiyo and her sister. When Chiyo falls over in the village she attracts the attention of Mr. Tanaka an important business man. Chiyo sees Mr Tanaka as her saviour, the rich business man, saving her from a life of poverty and shortly before her mother's death; the girls are taken from their little 'tipsy' home and embark on their first trip out of their home town. Obviously it would be wonderful if Mr Tanaka was to adopt the girls, but that would have made a much shorter tale! They soon realise all is not as it seems and they end their journey in the care of a complete stranger, in Kyoto. Satsu is a young teenager at this point and is sold to a jorou-ya -a brothel, while Chiyo has been sold to an Okiya, which is a home for geisha and geisha in training.
Chiyo definitely has been the luckier sister, although life is most certainly made very difficult for her. The owners of the okiya, 'mother', 'auntie' and 'grandmother' make Chiyo work like a slave, with the promise that if she behaves, she may be lucky and the okiya will send her to school to learn the geisha arts. One problem stands in her way, Hatsumomo is the okiyas principle geisha, she is beautiful and extremely popular which means a high revenue for the okiya, therefore Hatsumomo can get away with murder and she takes an instant dislike for pretty little Chiyo with her unusual eyes and decides to make life as difficult as she possibly can.
We follow Chiyo's struggle and although the path is not easy, she is eventually taken on by another Geisha, Mahema, who also just happens to be Hatsumomos arch rival. Mahema is a very popular geisha with many contacts who sees Chiyo's great potential. As Chiyo is now an apprentice geisha she is given a geisha name, Sayuri. Although you expect life to become easier for Sayuri now, she is still just a young teenager who doesn't really understand the full meaning of being a geisha. Pouring tea in the correct manner and engaging in entertaining conversation with boring business men is only one side. Selling your virginity to the highest bidder at the tender age of fifteen is another. Finding a much older and very well off gentleman (I use the term loosely!) to be your danna is yet another. Sadly, these decisions are made by the okiya and poor Sayuri has very little sayin her future. Nevertheless, she dreams of her 'saviour', a kind gentleman she met before becoming a geisha, but as she has such little control over her own life, will there ever be a happy ending for Sayuri?
The book is written in the first person from Sayuri/Chiyo's perspective. She is such an easy character to like, she is a very dreamy girl, describing her surroundings so vividly they are easy to imagine. Sometimes her words almost slip into poetry, but she is also very sharp witted and feisty. It is not always clear if she fully understands what is going on around her, certainly through much of the book she is a very young girl who has been pushed into a very adults way of life although she rarely comes across as naive, usually just accepting of her situation and looking for the best way to get through it.
The book explains so much about the geisha culture, the rules, regulations and various ceremonies to be followed, their superstitious nature, the importance of their popularity, exactly the kind of work a geisha does and how they actually make their money. Much detail is given about the different levels of geisha, the way Kimono is assembled, how the heavy make up is applied, the extravagant hairstyles and yet, not once did I feel the urge to skip a page or even a paragraph. I always thought Geisha were the handmaids to the emperor, so you can imagine the shock I had reading this!
I couldn't put this book down and lost myself in it so completely I was quite disappointed when I realised it was a work of fiction! It is written by Arthur Golden and after reading the author's acknowledgments I felt quite reassured that he had researched the book very well and had gathered information from some popular geisha of their way of life, although he was later sued by one, Mineko Iwasaki, she claimed he had promised her anonymity due to the traditional code of silence between a geisha and her clients. Golden has worked in Tokyo, has an MA in Japanese history and a degree in art history, specialising in Japanese art.
Memoirs of a Geisha was first published in 1997, the paperback copy I have is published by Vintage in 1998 and has 434 pages. The cover is grey showing the brightly painted red lips of a geisha. The RRP is £6.99 but obviously, given its age, I recommend searching for a very cheap second hand copy!
Originally Published by Vintage UK in 1998.
ISBN: 0-09-977151-9 Fiction
UK RRP £7,99
Even though the book was published 10 years ago I don't think many people will have read it until the film was released.
This book counts as fiction but is actually a translation of an anonymous geisha.
It tells the tale of a young geisha Sayuri living in the geisha district of Kyoto in Japan.
Sayuri and her big sister Satsu are sold to a man by her poor fisherman father when her mother is dying.
They are taken to Kyoto, seperated and sold to different Geisha houses.
She starts as a maid in the Geisha house and is disliked by the main Geisha Hatsumomo.
She starts at the Geisha school but is then pulled out when Hatsumomo sets her up for stealing.
The story then follows Sayuri as she becomes a fully fledged Geisha and the adventures that unfold.
The story carries in through the second world war which brings a lot of changes to Japan.
There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and Sayuri has far from an easy life.
The story is told beautifully by Arthur Golden and goes deep into a world little is known about. It really is insightful into the lives they led as geishas, you learn a lot from this book as I think people have ideas of what a Geisha is and most people really do not know.
I also recommend seeing the film after you have read the book as it is acted out amazingly and the story really comes across that way.
I had never read Arthur Golden before, although I was tempted to read this book through recommendation. Thus I had no pre-conceptions of the writing style of the author. Neither had I seen the film, and although I bought the film, was glad that I decided to read the book first, since the film pales in comparison.
The story tells of Chiyo, a young girl (aged 8), living in the fishing village of Yoroido in 1929, with her mother, father and sister, Satsu, and the road which takes her from the simple life she is leading to being a successful Geisha. From the moment I started to read the book, I was captivated by the writing style, though more than this the picture that it wove. Many authors succeed in describing characters, though few that I have read can conjure up the atmosphere to the extent that this book did. Whereas with other books, you are tempted sometimes to miss the odd paragraph and jump ahead of yourself, what I found was that I loved every word of the book, and that the words were not wasted. Instead, they were like the tiny pixels of a photograph and each had its place, and without them would not have portrayed the picture so well. It's amazingly interesting, cleverly put together and a very readable book indeed.
When Chiyo and Satsu are taken away from their parents to the City of Gion, neither are aware of why they are taken, and here the naivety of the girls is explained very well indeed, as they make their new homes, in separate communities called Okiyos, where Geisha girls are housed and sent out for schooling in their craft. Telling more of the story line would spoil the read although what is rather clever is the contrast of characters within the household itself. The Geisha that works to provide the funds for the Okiyo in which Chiyo lives comes over as a very strong character, and you feel the loathing for her that her character merits, although sad in parts for the life that the girl has led. The interaction between Chiyo and Pumpkin, who is another young girl in the same Okiyo shows a loyalty between people put in similar situations.
As the story unfolds, the reader learns of the art of Geisha, and how a Geisha is considered as entertainment and art form, and here I thought that the research that the author had done to make this book possible was astounding. Another thing that really did surprise me was that a male author could write a book from a female perspective, and the book is written in first person, Chiyo being the narrator.
Many books of this nature fail because of the introduction of expressions in another language that a reader is at a loss to understand. Arthur Golden doesn't do this and even though the words are Japanese, the meaning of each of them has a wonderful clarity and purpose to the whole experience of reading it.
Chiyo's life story would be a huge giveaway, so I am avoiding that within this review, since a reader needs to discover for themselves how her life progresses, the customs that make her road a very harsh one, moments of pleasure, moments of loyalty to other characters as they are introduced throughout the story. Here, what the author did was introduce many characters, though without making the classic error of making the reader confused. Each of the characters within the book make a very important contribution to the believeability of the story.
I could actually picture characters such as Mother, the lady in charge of the Okiyo, and indeed the other Geishas within Chiyo's story. It is so delicately woven as a complete tale that you really are enchanted and feel privileged to take a look at another society, and the way in which it works. For me as a reader, it is important to make sense of character portrayal, and the wording of the book was almost like the most delicate of lacework, each word having purpose and meaning, each explanation complete and enthralling.
Following the life of Chiyo and ever mindful of her humble beginnings, her character and how it is developed through circumstance, is really a journey into another place and time, and a very complete one. It touches on sentiment, emotions, aims and ambitions, although is almost written in an autobiographical manner. What I think impressed me the most was the glipse that you get of feelings that really are personal to Chiyo as she grows and develops within a new life, almost like a butterfly coming out of a crysalis. The symbolic happenings within Chiyo's life leave pictures of wonder, and her acceptance of her lot in life amazingly tantalising and enjoyable.
This really is a book for those who like a well written story, and the cleverness of word. It really is a skill that I have not seen managed so aptly in a book and is a wonderful story that I shall read time and time again for its metophoric skill and delicacy of language.
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Vintage; Film Tie-in Ed edition (1 Dec 2005)
This heart rending, evocative and often funny novel was written by American author Arthur Golden. It is a fictional work but is backed up by some pretty solid research.
The novel is the story of a young Japanese girl and her training to be a Geisha. A Geisha was trained in music, art, conversation and entertainment. Contrary to popular believe, a Geisha was not a prostitute but more of an accomplished companion and entertainer. This is the story of one girl's journey towards earning the honourable title of 'Geisha'.
It was first published in the United Kingdom by 1997 by Chatto and Windus and has been reprinted several times. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Denmark have also printed their own editions.
Golden himself was brought up in Tennessee and in 1978 he graduated in art history, specialising in Japanese Art. He went on to do an MA in Japanese history at Columbia University. He even worked for a time at a magazine in Tokyo. So, his credentials are very good when it comes to things Japanese.
What makes the book so fascinating is not just the story line which is in itself intriguing and often very sensual and moving but also the attention to detail. Golden paints a historically correct picture of the time. In order to do this he researched his subject well before weaving it into a powerful story.
The day-to-day life of a Geisha is true to life and for the period which is 1930's and 1940's. Much of his research was assisted by Mineko Iwasaki, who was a top Geisha in the 1960's and 1970's. She furnished details of the daily life of a Geisha, from their routines to their living arrangements, their finances and their toilettes.
This book captured my imagination and I could not put it down. It tells the tale of Sayuri who is a purely fictional character, and takes the reader through 25 years from 1929 to the years just after the second world war. It describes and reveals an enchanting erotic world which is also tinged with exploitation and sometimes degradation.
This is a very powerful mix of emotions and the author successfully evokes those feelings in the reader by his emotive use of language.
Sayuri tells her story in a gentle and always courteous manner and the reader grows to like her very quickly. The story unfolds into a beautiful and powerful experience.
This is book that will stay in your memory for a long time. It is well worth reading a couple of times as it seems to be more powerful the second time.
This novel has been made into a film which I haven't seen yet but I wouldn't mind betting that it doesn't have the same powerful impact as the book does.
I bought my copy from Ottakers at £7.99 for the paperback edition, but I believe they have it in their special summer reading section, and you can get it for £4.99 at the moment, if you want to buy it.
This book should be listed as a modern classic. A 'must read'!
I'm not a native English-speaking person and "Memoirs of a Geisha" was the first novel I read fully. The novel reveals to you a great deal about a geisha's life which is kept in the dark for many people. It also tells you about the hiden love story of a geisha. The story is a good combination of sensuality, emotions and thrill at the same time.
I kept reading it without any boredom from the start to the end. This is a great book! Recommended!
I would tell a little more about this story. It tells about the life of a small girl, Chiyo, in a small Japanese village, of course very long ago. After the death of her mother, his father allowed a businessman in the village to bring Chiyo and her sister to a big city to get training for being a geisha. Chiyo and her sister then were seperated from each other when approaching the city.
Chiyo had to live in a geisha house called okiya and had to work very hard. She was sent to the geisha school to be trained professionally. Many conflicts happened after that between Chiyo and a matured geisha in the same house, who later tried to destroy Chiyo's geisha career.
Chiyo fell in love with a successful businessman who is called "Chairman" in the novel. Her love was kept secret by herself almost the story and went through many obstables, including the Second World War when she had to pause her career due to the evacuation.
I like many small details in the story. Some are even very funny. For example, when Mameha- a very successful geisha who took charge of training Chiyo- explained her about sex, she said that a woman had a hole, a man had an eel and an eel definitely needed a shelter to rest :)
The novel also gives you a broad knowledge about how a geisha lived and worked. This is kind of amazing because the author is an American. He had worked hard for 10 years to write up this novel and it's definitely worth his long decade.
I first came across this book about 6 years ago and read it then and I have now read it again. It was as great an experience second time around.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is a fictional book written in the form of a memoir as the name suggests, by the former geisha in Kyoto, Japan. And strangely enough it was written by a man! Well, I guess some men are able to successfuly " enter" a woman's soul as it it was their own as once you will read this book you will be dissapointed this was not a true story.
Memoirs of a Geisha starts with a little introduction from the supposed translator who has transcribed the story dictated to him by the heroine of the story and how he came about to write it down. Later we move on to the actual story as told by Chiyo who was later called Sayuri - her adopted geisha name.
As you noticed, I titled this review a Parallel World and it is for a reason as while reading the book , you feel as it's impossible that in the 20th century, there could be a world somewhere out there where women lived like that and it was an accepted or rather not unsual situation. I don't want to state the obvious to those who are very aware of what was being involved in being a geisha and what was their life about but while reading the story, you really learn so much about this life that you would otherwise never know ( unless you read another book on geisha's life ). Geisha, contrary to the public misconception, were not just prostitutes. They were women trained since childhood to entertain men in teahouses and the skills they posessed were of singing, dancing and playing shamisen ( a musical instrument ) as well as performing tea ceremony and most importantly be witty and interesting to get a lot of work. They did not have to be beautiful and often they were not even particularly bright but that could cause them to fail as a geisha. Their life revolved around getting dressed up in beautiful expensive kimonos however it was not all fun and games as those women were often sold into becoming a geisha and they may have started of as servants for the okiya ( a house into which they were sold into ). Okiya would be often owned by former geishas who either failed in their career or just decided to continue their life "behind the curtains". Okiya owned the kimonos the geisha wore and often there would be more than one geisha living in the household. But getting back to what geisha do. Other than entertaining, they would hope to catch a danna - in other words a rich official lover and that would involve gifts and of course sex. One danna at a time though. However, if geisha had no danna, she would not sleep with other men unless she had an actual boyfriend on the side but then that was not really accepted by their okiyas as their job was to ensure they could snare a rich man and make money for their okiya. But some geisha apparently went without having a danna for years and all they would do is just purely entertain groups of men in teahouses and charge them for it. But if they did get a rich enough danna, that could free them from living in the okiya and they could set themselves up in their own flat or home.
Chiyo, which is our heroine was such young girl in pre-World War II small fishing village in Japan who was sold by her father and together with her sister was taken to be trained as geisha in Kyoto. Not that she knew about it at first, this all came as news later on. The story is absolutely beautiful and you really feel srry for the confused little girl whose life has been suddenly turned around and she has been transported to a new home and has to reasses what is going on and who she can count on. Unfortunately for a long while it's only herself and it can't be easy when you are 9 or 10.
The story develops as Chiyo starts turning into a teenaged and then a young woman and the choices she has to make to survive in this world of geishas which is certainly not easy. We also learn about her lifelong dreamand whether it comes true or not. The story takes place mainly in Gion which is a geisha district in Kyoto and it is called a geisha district so it really is a separate world to the one that Chiyo's contemporaries were living in the rest of Japan. There were few other geisha districts in Kyoto as well as in other cities but we really only learn about the customs of Gion or Kyoto's geishas.
I recommend this book if you are looking for an amazing story and want to learn something about other people's lifestyles and lives. The book is very well written, the characters are very well developed and it's a genuine pleasure to read it and you really feel as if you were there and you definitely feel for the main character. I was very dissapointed when the story was over and I was also dissapointed that I won't be able to go to Japan and see the setting of the book as it was in the time of the story or even earlier as geisha culture has been around for some hundreds of years as the story really drew me in the first and second time around and it will be a while before I will be as influenced by a book.