Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
I have yet to read a bad review of this book. When I named it on my Fall Into Reading list I heard many a good word about it. Let me say, I was not disappointed. This book lived up to everything I heard about it and more.
Golden’s writing swept me away in the first paragraph. It transported me to the pre-WWII era in Gion where the geisha and all girls who were bought and sold and aspired to be geisha struggled in an intricate society. They hung in a delicate balance of competition and dependency on one another.
Memoirs is the story of one geisha. It begins with her as a young girl, Chiyo, in a fishing village and follows her life as she is sold to a okiya and as she becomes Sayuri the name she is given when she becomes a geisha apprentice.
I will admit that, like many women Sayuri meets, I originally presumed geisha to be little more than high dollar pro$titues (forgive me—just trying to ward off the search spiders). What I found to be true was that their society, their company was sought out for much more than I understood. And I still don’t think I get it all.
Fascinating to me was the fact that apprentice geisha wore more complicated kimono and make-up than established geisha. The layers that went into preparing to leave the okiya to go to the teahouses for an evening was unbelievable. The elaborate education and training that geisha maintained and the social rules for how a geisha visited different teahouses and parties was mapped out like strategy.
The culture that was pre-war Japan was complicated and dominated by men. The cultural difference between the women of today and the Japanese women is separated by a huge chasm. Certainly I was bothered by the commonality of geisha in the upper societies. The presumption of society that it was a right of wealthy men to seek their entertainment. But at the same time I was fascinated by the complexity of geisha and how a girl rose to be one and I was mesmerized by the story Mr. Golden wove.
Memoirs of a Geisha goes on my short list of all time favorites and I am truly tickled to be able to say I have a spare copy to give away. If you have not read it and would like to, leave me a comment in my giveaway post found HERE.
The only bad thing I can say about Memoirs of a Geisha is that I wish I had read it sooner.