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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha (original 1997; edition 2006)

by Arthur Golden

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
27,21042736 (4.01)415
Title:Memoirs of a Geisha
Authors:Arthur Golden
Info:Random House Large Print (2006), Paperback, 768 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997)

  1. 140
    Geisha: A Life by Mineko Iwasaki (Leishai, sbuehrle)
    Leishai: Arthur Golden schrieb einen Roman über Geishas. Mineko Iwasaki war die Geiko, die er dafür interviewte. Sie stellt in ihrem Buch alles richtig, was er sich zu dramatischen Zwecken zurechtgeschnitten hat.
    sbuehrle: I would recommend reading these books back-to-back. Memoirs of a Geisha is the fictional account of Iwasaki's life, whereas Geisha: A Life is the autobiographical response.
  2. 174
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (goodiegoodie)
  3. 51
    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (krizia_lazaro)
  4. 52
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (caflores)
  5. 20
    Geisha in Rivalry by Kafu Nagai (normandie_m)
    normandie_m: Set slightly earlier and in Tokyo, but also worth reading for exploring the relationship dynamics between geisha and their patrons, who come from a variety of different backgrounds. Also offers insight into the relationships/friendships between the different geisha.… (more)
  6. 31
    Geisha by Liza Dalby (SqueakyChu, MartinRohrbach, Leishai)
    Leishai: Ein gutes Buch für Europäer oder Amerikaner zum Verständnis der japanischen Geisha-Kultur.
  7. 20
    Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Beautifully written story of a geisha who fares better than Sayo Masuda.
  8. 10
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» See also 415 mentions

English (403)  Spanish (9)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  Italian (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (425)
Showing 1-5 of 403 (next | show all)
I have been looking at the cover of this book for years in bookstores and finally picked up a used book to read. I figured that if it bored me in the first 50 pages I could easily drop the book and move onto something else.

Well, obviously I enjoyed the novel. I liked the detail in the writing. It was like being there, in the shadows watching the education of a young girl from a poor fishing village transform into sought after geisha during the 1930's to late 1940's.

The jealousies and cattiness of the women, the acts of revenge that ruin reputations and advance their careers were fascinating to read.

The book was most interesting in the 1930's before the second world war as you see how the young 9 year old, Chiyo, enters a Geisha house after being sold by her father and has to battle the viciousness of Hatsumomo the senior geisha who sees her as an eventual rival and uses every trick to try to ruin her. You see her progress to an apprentice geisha under the guidance of Mameha and then to an experienced Geisha using her own wiles to defeat her rivals.

This is not an "action" novel nor is it one of a sexual nature. It is a story of a world that is unknown to most of us and a fantasizing read.... It does drag a bit near the end before she returns to her geisha house after the war but not excessively so. ( )
  Lynxear | Dec 23, 2014 |
This book started out good and I was really interested. But about half way through it got a little creepy. Having a 15-year-old daughter, I had a hard time reading about the mizuage. And the love story was hard to get into knowing the Sayuri's love interest was married.

It was a well written and good story. If you are a fan of historical fiction then you might want to give it a try. ( )
  DaphneH | Dec 1, 2014 |
When Memoirs of a Geisha was published in 1997, the
insights that it gave into the Japanese world of the
geisha created enormous interest and the novel
became a bestseller. A film of the novel, directed by Steven
Spielberg, is soon to be released.
Memoirs of a Geisha tells the fictional story of Chiyo, a
young Japanese girl, whose family, unable to support her,
sell her to a geisha house in the city of Kyoto during the
1930s. A geisha is a professional female companion for
men in Japan, trained in music, dancing, and the art of
conversation. The geisha training is a life of virtual slavery,
and Chiyo finds herself working as maid to a malevolent
geisha called Hatsumomo who, jealous of Chiyo’s beauty,
makes her life utterly miserable. One day, as Chiyo weeps
by a stream in the city, a wealthy man stops and comforts
her. Chiyo, deeply moved by the man’s kindness, knows
that she will never forget him. Two years later, a geisha
called Mameha, as kind as Hatsumomo is cruel, takes
Chiyo under her wing. Chiyo, now renamed Sayuri,
becomes a successful geisha, renowned for her beauty.
Then one day she meets the man who had comforted her
by the stream. But life does not run smoothly for Sayuri and
there are powerful obstacles that prevent the two from
coming together ...
  joanna_17000 | Nov 11, 2014 |
400+ pages if read the book. I preferred to listen.. This story is fiction but the author states that the historical facts and backgournd information is not fiction. An amazing story of a young girl of 9 that is sold by her father to a wealthy man who in turn sold her and her sister to different businesses. The pretty 9 yer old was sold to a Geisha house and the less attractive and less intelligent 15 year old to a prostitution house. Every action of the characters is brought to life by the characteristic Japanese imagery conveyed realisticly through the creative thoughts of the main character. The metaphores and similies gracefully attach the reader to her intimate thoughts and help you live life with her as she grows and matures. I got a surprosing look into a very secret world. Loved this book. The narrator was excellent and I had a difficult turning the story off when life demanded.. ( )
1 vote gaillamontagne | Oct 5, 2014 |
I love reading about other cultures as you can see, this is a beautiful cover! Geisha's are basically prostitutes, but they are more traditional. I didn't want to be judgmental of their lifestyles, so I read this novel with an open mind - and I amazingly loved the main character! I didn't care what her reasons were for, all I wanted to know was what will happen next! I thought she was strong, and very different in a good way. It's a wonderful novel about culture, loyalty, and family ( )
  benishkhanx | Sep 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 403 (next | show all)
Golden fills the book with vivid images and subtle descriptions of the nuances of Japanese culture, and is absolutely brilliant in his description of the customs and rituals of the geisha. Through the meticulous detail the reader can fully understand the politics, rivalries, and traditions of the Japan geisha society.
added by mikeg2 | editCNN, Ann Hastings (May 25, 1998)
Mr. Golden gives us not only a richly sympathetic portrait of a woman, but also a finely observed picture of an anomalous and largely vanished world. He has made an impressive and unusual debut.
Haarhuis's foreword and Golden's epilogue, the one appropriating the guise of a novel and the other taking it off, suggest an author who is of two minds when it comes to his work. It is not surprising, then, if his readers share this uncertainty. The decision to write an autobiographically styled novel rather than a nonfiction portrait is most obviously justified in terms of empathy, of allowing greater freedom to explore the geisha's inner life. Unfortunately, Sayuri's personality seems so familiar it is almost generic; she is not so much an individual as a faultless arrangement of feminine virtues.

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arthur Goldenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cobb, JodiCover photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my wife, Trudy,
and my children, Hays and Tess
First words
One evening in the spring of 1936, when I was a boy of fourteen, my father took me to a dance performance in Kyoto.

Translator's note.
Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, 'That afternoon when I met so-and-so ... was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon.'

Chapter one.
Adversity is like a strong wind. I don’t mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be. -Nitta Sayuri
We none of us find as much kindness in this world as we should. -Chairman Iwamura
A balance of good and bad can open the door to destiny.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
A seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, that tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan's most dramatic history, it uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930s, where a young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most powerful men.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679781587, Paperback)

The first thing you notice about the audio version of Memoirs of a Geisha is that Arthur Golden's 428-page novel has been reduced to a scant two cassettes. But dismay quickly gives way to mounting pleasure as Elaina Erika Davis (Contact, As the World Turns) begins her delicate rendering of geisha culture in the years before World War II. Davis reads the abbreviated story of Sayuri with an authentic-sounding Japanese accent--one mixed with a magical combination of Asian reserve and theatrical energy. As Sayuri ages from a 9-year-old peasant girl to a popular geisha in her late 20s, Davis directs her voice gently away from curious youth to a tone that reflects Sayuri's uphill life.

From start to finish, the listener is absorbed in the elegant spirit of Davis's performance, eager to hear the next chapter of Sayuri's transformation into one of the most famous geishas of the century. How unfortunate, then, to learn that book readers not only get the basic story, but a fascinating look at the intricate rules and rituals of geisha culture. Here, for example, is one of the many revelations omitted from the cassette: "Japanese men, as a rule, feel about a woman's neck and throat the same way that men in the West might feel about a woman's legs.... In fact, a geisha leaves a tiny margin of skin bare all around the hairline, causing her makeup to look even more artificial.... When a man sits beside her, he becomes that much more aware of the bare skin beneath."

We're also denied several subplots--the aborted friendship between Sayuri and a geisha named Pumpkin, for example, or much of the story involving the man Sayuri is secretly in love with. But what remains is as precious as a traditional Japanese kimono--at once artistic, suggestive, and moving. --Ann Senechal

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:46 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Because her mother is dying and her father old, Chiyo, nine, is sold to a wealthy geisha house in Gion where she learns her trade and works it in the 1930s and 1940s.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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