Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha


It’s surprising, I’ve never heard of this book until my cousin gave a summary to this wonderful non fiction. An epic tale woven into a beautiful vanishing world of today, *Geishas* It’s beautiful because it’s written in a way enthralling readers interest. For some it may not be what it calls beautiful, But for some like me, this Memoirs was gripping, fascinating and a truly engrossing one. I’d to take breaks to fully capture the meaning of beautifully captured moments. I should thank Arthur Golden for this sort of novel that’s convincing yet takes us to another time and place. But, I should say this tale is foretold by another ears and eyes. Unbelievable right?
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Arthur Golden, 59 years, born and brought up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A Harvard graduate with art history degree specialising in Japanese Art. Later he earned M.A in Japanese history from Columbia University. He went to work for a magazine in Tokyo. Later received English from Boston University. He now lives in Brookline Massachusetts with his wife and children.
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Arthur tells us about a young nine year old girl Chiyo, who lived in a little tipsy shack with her family up on the cliffs. Her life was like the shack, baseless, shaky and can collapse in anytime. She and her older sister Satsu-san was adopted by Mr Tanaka, a fishing company owned businessman promising a better future.
According to her, it’s a privilege to be adopted by a rich businessman but things turn out to be quite unfortunate when they aren’t left with any choices. Her older sister is sold and Chiyo is to live in a renowned okiya. It’s the place where Geisha live. Her life turns to be strange as she works hard to earn money so she can pay back her debts to okiya. She starts schooling where she learns to be an entertainer and a performer from arranging flowers to pouring tea sake, grooming, dancing, playing flute, drums to shamisen ( a traditional Japanese three-stringed lute with a square body, played with a large plectrum). From Arts to proper comportment and behaviour, from speaking Kyoto accent to regional speaking language, from slouching or walking in lumbering steps to graceful dance, a Geisha knows it all and never gives in casually to a man who finds her attractive. Only if a right sort of man whose willing to offer suitable terms for a longer period rather one night stands. And the real money for a Geisha comes from having danna (husband) attending parties, schools, make ups, social engagements and may be cover her medical expenses. An average Geisha spends her time charming men in hopes one would pursue the mistress of tea house and inquire about her. Despite all these expenses, he would pay her hourly fee when he spends time with her and is entitled to certain privileges.

Nitta Sayuri, Once known as Sakamato Chiyo a 15 year old apprentice sells her mizuage (virginity) to the highest bidder, Dr. Crab. ( A Mizuage patron) After two years, she continues her studies and dance performances until in summer 1938, she becomes a Geisha, a white collar one.

There is so much more to the story, the rivalry of Hatsumomo, Pumpkin’s friendship, Mameha, her established older sister who trains her to be Geisha and an unexpected twist of a romantic string in her life. In all, she has managed it like a stream that falls over rocky cliffs before it reaches the ocean.

Make sure when you get the copy read Jacob Haarhuis, the translator note. In his words, I was curious to know what it is to be a Geisha. Geisha, “A Japanese Prostitute” to you Westerners.

Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.

But now I know our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean.

If you liked whatever I’ve posted about this book, you should grab a copy, a warm tea and read in monsoon showers. It’s so beautiful! Believe me, this book won’t let you down. From being Geisha in Japan to her New York diaries, she fell in love with each moment.
My rating : 5/5 🙂
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