Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a review. To be honest it’s been even longer that I’ve actually gotten through a good book!

A still from the 2005 Rob Marshall film.

I watched the movie adaption of “Memoirs of a Geisha” years ago. I remember thinking that it was a beautifully filmed movie and that I really enjoyed watching the special features to find out how the movie was made. I couldn’t remember much of the story line though, and so when I read the novel it was completely new to me.

The novel is set in Japan before and after WWII and tells the story of Chiyo Sakamoto, a young girl from a poor fishing village. She is sold by her father at the age of 9 to an okiya (geisha boarding house) where we learn about her journey to become a geisha and all that happens in between.

The art of being a geisha was completely unfamiliar to me. In fact, I didn’t really understand what a geisha actually was before reading the book. Becoming a geisha is an extremely difficult, emotional, and important process that requires years of training in order to succeed. Geishas lead unique lives in which they are judged based on what they look like, how they act, and most importantly, how they are able to interact with men. Through their interactions with men their path of life is determined a success or a failure, leading them towards the future.

Vintage, 1998, 428 pages (paperback)

It is clear that Golden did a lot of research in for this novel. Furthermore, he is an eloquent and captivating author. Through his research he was able to convey scenes with amazing clarity and emotion, making the book come to life in the process.

WWII history is one of the genres I enjoy reading about most but I always seem to read about WWII from a European perspective. Although “Memoirs of a Geisha” isn’t exclusively about WWII, it is interesting to read about the impact of WWII from a Japanese perspective. It was also interesting to read about Japanese culture, history, and daily life, something that I wasn’t familiar with before reading the book.

Now that I’ve finished the book I’m looking forward to watching the movie once more. The book was interesting, moving, and informative and I hope that this is portrayed well in the film. It’s one book that I would highly recommend. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year!


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