Memoirs of a Geisha


One of the best books I have ever read! It has been everything that you need a book to be – entertaining, enthralling, mesmerising and more! This an amazing tale of the coming of age of a little girl, geisha rivalries inside the okiya, her struggle for freedom and her search for her prince charming. As for me, I knew nothing about Geisha’s and their quaint little world or even how you say the word ‘Geisha’ (gay-sha) – so it would be fair to say reading this book was quite educational for me.

This story is about a pretty little girl – Chiyo who comes from an impoverished family. Her family comprises of her father who is a fisherman and barely manages to make ends meet; her mother a very beautiful woman whom Chiyo has inherited her lovely looks and grey eyes from and suffers from a terminal illness; her elder sister Satsu who has inherited more ordinary looks from her father.

During the Great Depression in Japan, Chiyo’s father is forced to sell both his daughters into slavery. Owing to her unusual and charming looks, Chiyo is sold into an okiya which is a Geisha house while Satsu is sold into prostitution.

Coming from an extremely humble background little Chiyo is amazed by the glitz and glamour of the Gion. The first part of the book is the transformation of a simple girl into a sophisticated and superstitious Geisha. It also gives us an idea about her Geisha studies – singing, dancing, tea ceremonies, along with the hardships and rivalries at the okiya with the okiya’s top girl – Hatsumomo.

Soon as an apprentice geisha Chiyo follows her ‘older sister’ Mameha – a successful geisha around the gion and meets potential patrons. During her coming of age, there is a bidding for her Mizuage after which she no longer needs to be accompanied by her older sister. She takes charge of her life and tries to free herself of the debts owed to the okiya.

The two key characters are Nobu and Chairman both of whom are partners in an electrical company. Nobu is an ugly yet kind hearted sumo wrestler while the Chairman is a refined, classy man whose words gave Sayuri (Chiyo’s geisha name) the strength during testing times. Sayuri had grown to be obsessed by him and his thoughts. Sayuri has come to find a friend in Nobu. Nobu who wishes to be her ‘danna’. Danna is someone who takes a geisha as his mistress. It is interesting how until the end, it is undecided who Sayuri’s fate holds for her – Nobu or the chairman.

It is very rare that you come across a tale so complete and entertaining! Though the downside is that some elements to it are too extreme or fairytale-ish. For instance the character of the chairman comes across as one which perfect and this worries me as it is too ideal and far from being realistic. Having said that, I wish there were other books by Arthur Golden because am sure I would be waiting to read it. A (almost) perfect tale – it has all the elements a new world, the victories and struggles of a little girl, her romance, her education.

Mr.Golden – Please write another book! I would love to go on another exotic and entertaining journey via your book.

Overall verdict : 5/5

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4 responses to “Memoirs of a Geisha”

  1. Cassie says :

    I usually don’t read a lot of eastern literature and I thought this was an amazing book as well! And yes, the plea to Mr. Golden at the end – I agree – please please please!

  2. Florian / Abandoned Kansai says :

    You should give James Clavell’s Shogun a try then.

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