Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

memoirs_of_a_geisha_arthur_golden

Some books are only heard of, and not read. But the good things spoken of the book still make a mark on the mind and when heard, or given a chance to read, that mark begins to shine and bring the book silently into your shelf. I’m part of a group of book lovers who love reading and sharing thoughts on those books. This book, Memoirs of a Geisha, came to me through that group, but from a friend who I’ve known since much before.

Chiyo, who lives with her siter Satsu and her parents in an old shack by the sea. Their lives, like the shack, are on the verge of collapse, so when a businessman offers to take Chiyo and Satsu to the city, the father is convinced quite easily. But do their lives change for the better or worse? Satsu, who is fifteen, is put in a brothel. Chiyo, who is nine, is deemed worthy enough to become a geisha, and neither girls are given the choice to choose. Chiyo, placed in the Okiya house, finds a friend in a girl nicknamed Pumpkin, and with her good looks, also finds an adversary in Hatsumomo, the ill-tempered geisha of the Okiya house. The story follows Chiyo’s journey from the little girl to the geisha Sayuri. It narrates her training, her life at the Okiya house, her rivalry with Hatsumomo, her “sister” Mameha etc.

I did not think this novel would engage me from start to finish, but it did. The narration is that good, but it is the emotion which draws me in as a reader; be it the helplessness of Satsu and Chiyo when they are examined by Mrs. Fidget, or the bond between the sisters, or the deceptive Hatsumomo. Though not happy, the world from Chiyo’s perspective is interesting to read, in that writing style. Characters have their strengths and their flaws too, like Chiyo’s father, who loves his wife and children but is helpless in a way, and easily convinced by the offer from the businessman. The story feels a reality too in some ways, like there being a price for virginity and such. How Mameha explains sex to Sayuri is also well done, feeling as if there was consideration given for Sayuri’s age. The novel also shows the possibility and the power of love, how that feeling motivates. The life of the little girl is not one I’d praise, but with who she is, maybe one that seems to go with who she wants to be.

The only flipside perhaps is that when the author tries to share the history or explanation of some facts of a Geisha’s life, the narration tends to sound like a documentary, rather than fictionalizing that in Sayuri’s voice. But that doesn’t dissuade or break the reading, so it’s only a minor point in my book.

A book that I’d definitely read again, albeit after a while, I feel Memoirs of a Geisha is quite well-written and realistic.


The Bookworm Rates This: 5/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 5/5
Book Details
Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Author(s): Arthur Golden Genre: Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9780099282853 Publisher: Vintage

I own a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.


(© 29th September 2015)

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