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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha (original 1997; edition 2005)

by Arthur Golden

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
26,95042037 (4.01)398
Title:Memoirs of a Geisha
Authors:Arthur Golden
Info:Vintage (2005), Edition: Film Tie-in Ed, Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:winter 2013

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. 31
    Geisha by Liza Dalby (SqueakyChu, MartinRohrbach, Leishai)
    Leishai: Ein gutes Buch für Europäer oder Amerikaner zum Verständnis der japanischen Geisha-Kultur.
  6. 20
    Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Beautifully written story of a geisha who fares better than Sayo Masuda.
  7. 10
    The pillow book by Sei Shonagon (brightbel)
  8. 00
    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)
  9. 00
    Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (Catt172)
  10. 01
    Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee (amanaceerdh)
  11. 01
    The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (cransell)
  12. 01
    Jia: A Novel of North Korea by Hyejin Kim (meggyweg)
  13. 04
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (MartinRohrbach)

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» See also 398 mentions

English (396)  Spanish (9)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  Italian (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (418)
Showing 1-5 of 396 (next | show all)
I am giving this five stars because there isn't a single negative thing I can think of to say about this book. I devoured it, didn't want to put it down. Loved it from beginning to end. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
Review #1: From start to finish I had this nagging feeling that I've read this book before -- or read a very similar story. I haven't been able to track down why this book seems so familiar. If I ever do, I'll append this journal entry. To some degree, then, this story feels derivative and cliche. Orphaned girl tries to make good with her new "family" and is harrassed by the jealous, spiteful bully. The story picks up at the 1/3 point and stops being quite so cliche as it is in the set up. The good news is that the details are so rich and the language flows smoothly enough to make this book a page turner, even in the rough start.

Review #2: I happened to be reading this book at the same time I was reading the Chobits manga series. Both books are about Japanese culture and the relationships of men and women across classes.

Memoirs of a Geisha is the fictional account of a girl aprenticing to
become a geisha in the great depression era. As the book explains -- gei
means art and geisha means artisan. It's an ironic/jaded pun for a
society/class of expensive escorts. To stay a geisha, a woman cannot marry
and should not fall in love with her clients. Chobits seems to be a sci-fi
retelling of the same tale. The underlying tensions are about what sorts of
pairings are good/normal and who should love whom. Chi is an artifice -- an
almost pun on geisha.

In both cases, Chiyo/Sayuri (of Memoirs of a Geisha) and Chi (of Chobits), are seeking happiness, wondering if happiness can be attained. In Sayuri's case, her station is supposed to keep her dispassionate in her associations with her various clients. In Chi's case, she's a machine and not supposed to feel real emotions.

Review #3: The final comparision I found myself making with this book is between Chiyo /Sayuri and Chihiro/Sen (of Sen To Chihiro Kamikakushi aka Spirited Away). Both stories revolve around young girls who are taken away from their parents through bizare circumstances and brought into lives that they would otherwise not have lived. In Chihiro's case, she ultimately is returned to her parents as is warranted by the fantasy convention. Mother in Memoirs reminds me of Yubaba and Mameha reminds me of Lin in her initial reluctance to help and her later tutorilage.

Final thoughts: I think Memoirs of a Geisha has lots to offer. It may be a little rough at first but I recommend reading the book! You will come away enriched for reading it. :) ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 4, 2014 |
Nachdem ich ausschließlich Gutes über dieses Buch gehört hatte, traute ich mich selbst mal ran und war schlichtweg begeistert! Ein faszinierendes Buch, welches nicht nur vortrefflich geschrieben ist, sondern mich auch noch fesselte, so dass ich dieses Buch kaum noch aus der Hand legen konnte.
Die Handlung ist gut ausgearbeitet und spannend, das Thema 'Geishas' gut recherchiert und informativ wiedergegeben, auch wenn einige Dinge im traditionellen Japan mit Sicherheit anders waren.
( )
  CanYouSeeMe | Aug 4, 2014 |
I have to give this novel 5 stars even though I found it depressing - the writing, especially the descriptions of people and places, were so wonderful that I know I could never write that well. The view into this normally closed world of geisha and dama was fascinating, and I'm a sucker for a good love story with a happy ending. Interesting that the author, Arthur Golden, never wrote another book, but with millions of copies sold, I suppose he is still living off the royalties. ( )
  Maggie.Anton | Jul 18, 2014 |
I LOVE the use of a lot of figurative language the author uses to describe the surrounds--everything is a simile or a metaphor.

One of the most interesting things about this book is that while Golding is describing the beautiful Japanese setting, I was driving through miles and miles of desert. It was trippy.

I picked this book because I know it was a big deal a few years ago when the movie came out (which I have yet to see). I'd say it was a good book to travel with...but it's not on my all-time favs. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 396 (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.
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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.
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.'
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)

In 1929, an impoverished fishing village father sells his nine-year-old daughter, Chiyo, to a geisha house in Kyoto's Gion district and she becomes subjected to cruel treatment from the owners and the head geisha Hatsumomo. As she grows older, her stunning beauty attracts the vindictive jealousy of Hatsumomo. She is rescued by and taken under the wing of Hatsumomo's bitter rival, Mameha. Under Mameha's mentorship, Chiyo becomes the geisha named Sayuri, trained in all the artistic graces and social skills a geisha must master. As a renowned geisha, she enters a society of wealth, privilege, and political intrigue. With the onslaught of World War II, Japan and the geisha's world are forever changed.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 13 descriptions

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