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Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)

by Arthur Golden

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
32,15650350 (4.01)495
A fisherman's daughter in 1930s Japan rises to become a famous geisha. After training, Sayuri's virginity is sold to the highest bidder, then the school finds her a general for a patron. When he dies, she is reunited with the only man she loved.
Recently added byArina40, discobiscuit, carmsoc, MMKY, TerjeT, TheBrokenSpine, private library, MLHCrews, Jazzybabs
  1. 190
    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. 184
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (goodiegoodie)
  3. 40
    Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Beautifully written story of a geisha who fares better than Sayo Masuda.
  4. 51
    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (krizia_lazaro)
  5. 41
    Geisha by Liza Dalby (SqueakyChu, MartinRohrbach, Leishai)
    Leishai: Ein gutes Buch für Europäer oder Amerikaner zum Verständnis der japanischen Geisha-Kultur.
  6. 30
    The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon by Sei Shonagon (brightbel)
  7. 63
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (caflores)
  8. 20
    Kimonos (365 Series) by Sophie Milenovich (JuliaMaria)
  9. 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)
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    The Physician by Noah Gordon (MartinRohrbach)
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» See also 495 mentions

English (476)  Spanish (11)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (500)
Showing 1-5 of 476 (next | show all)
I picked up this paperback at the L.A. book fair because I have always been curious about the Geishas. The book was entertaining and informative, but also dashed all my romantic notions about these women who are basically young girls sold into slavery and prostitution. Yes, they train for years and are accomplished dancers, artists, musicians, and hostesses, but that doesn't change the fact that they are forced into this way of life by the mothers of the okiya they belong to-the alternative would be worse, to become a maid/slave for the rest of their lives. The story of Sayuri is a sad one although the book is humorous at times and insightful into the Japanese way of life. I have read reviews that say the Japanese culture is not authentically portrayed in it (being written by an American man) but it certainly doesn't read that way. The author has definitely managed to capture the essence of life as a Geisha with all the joys and sorrows of a glorified prostitute. ( )
  PaulaGalvan | Jun 30, 2020 |
2.5 stars
Ugh, I have mixed opinions on this one. While Golden's prose is entertaining and easy to read, I have a few problems with this novel. As many others have mentioned, Golden wrote this from a Western perspective. As much as he has educated himself on Japanese culture, the Western influence is prominent throughout the story. The faux translator's note at the beginning of the story threw me off as well - it took me a while to realise this was entirely fiction. Historical fiction, sure, but fiction nevertheless.

I particularly liked the first 100 or so pages. Chiyo is a likeable character and I grew fond of her and her family. When she starts training to become a geisha, I think the story's quality gradually went downhill - especially after she 'became' Sayuri. Sayuri is much more superficial than Chiyo and frankly quite uninteresting. Her attachment to the Chairman and the ending were very cliché. Overall, I enjoyed this but it's not as good as other people make it out to be. ( )
  frtyfour | Jun 16, 2020 |
This is not my normal faire… Not a mystery, not a thriller, just a good novel. A friend passed it on to me as I boarded an airplane and it was an excellent flying companion. The world of the Geisha is now a memory but this excellent story recalls, in the first person, one of the last from this special line of work. It's a gentle, beautiful story. ( )
  susandennis | Jun 5, 2020 |
Read this in high school and liked it. Now that I look back, though, it's super problematic for a variety of reasons that I didn't understand at 15, but I'm not sure how to honestly edit my rating since it's been such a long time. Definitely no interest in wasting my time on a reread though. ( )
  lightkensei | May 17, 2020 |
Laut Arthur Goldens fesselndem ersten Roman bedeutet das Wort "Geisha" nicht "Prostituierte", wie ignorante Abendländer zuweilen vermuten -- sondern vielmehr "Kunstgewerblerin" oder "Künstlerin". Um das Geisha-Erlebnis für die Erzählkunst einzufangen, trainierte Golden so lange und so hart wie jede Geisha, die die Kunst der Musik, des Tanzes, der klugen Konversation, des cleveren Kampfes mit konkurrierenden Schönheiten und der geschickten Verführung wohlhabender Kunden meistern muß. Nachdem er seinen akademischen Grad in japanischer Kunst und Geschichte an der Harvard und der Columbia Universität erhalten hatte -- und seinem M.A. für Anglistik -- lernte er in Tokio einen Mann kennen, der der uneheliche Sohn eines angesehenen Geschäftsmannes und einer Geisha war. Diese Begegnung inspirierte Golden dazu, zehn Jahre lang jedes Detail der Geisha-Kultur zu erforschen. Dabei stützt er sich hauptsächlich auf die Erfahrungen der Geisha Mineko Iwasaki, die Jahre damit verbrachte, die ganz Reichen und die ganz Berühmten zu bezaubern. Das Ergebnis ist ein Roman mit der breiten gesellschaftlichen Leinwand (und der Liebe zum Zufall) eines Charles Dickens und der Beobachtungsgabe für die Feinheiten des erotischen Manövrierens einer Jane Austen. Der Leser erlebt das gesamte Leben einer Geisha mit, von ihren Anfängen 1929 als verwaistes Mädchen in einem Fischerdorf, über die triumphale Versteigerung ihrer "Mizuage" (Jungfräulichkeit) als Teenager zu einem Rekordpreis, bis hin zu ihren späten Jahren als die angesehene Geliebte ihres mächtigen Traumkunden mit einem Hang zur Nostalgie. Wir erfahren, daß eine Geisha eher mit der abendländischen Idee einer Frau als Statussymbol vergleichbar ist als mit einer Prostituierten -- und daß, wie bei Austen, unverholene Prostitution und früher Tod für eine Frau die Alternative zum repressiven, obskuren System der Brautwerbung sind. In einfacher, eleganter Prosa führt uns Golden direkt zur Geisha in die Teestube; wir sind dabei, während sie -- in einer gesellschaftlichen Situation, in der durch eine geistreiche Bemerkung, eine allzu offenherzige (oder zuwenig offenherzige) Zurschaustellung von nackter Haut unter dem Kimono oder ein boshaftes Gerücht, das von einer Rivalin "so gemein wie eine Spinne" verbreitet wird, Karrieren gemacht oder zerstört werden -- anmutig um ihr Leben kämpft . Goldens Netz ist fein gesponnen, doch sein Buch hat einen ernsthaften Makel: die wahre Romanze der Geisha klingt hohl -- die Liebe ihres Lebens ist ein Symbol, nicht eine Figur. Ihre niederträchtige Geisha-Nemesis ist scharf gezeichnet, aber sie wäre deutlicher erkennbar, wenn wir einen tieferen Blick in die Gründe für ihre motivlose Bösartigkeit bekämen -- in das Elend, das alle Geishas teilen. Trotzdem, Golden hat den Grand Slam der Belletristik gewonnen. Er hat eine überzeugende Protagonistin in einer anschaulichen, mittlerweile untergegangenen Welt geschaffen. Großartig fängt er die Kultur Japans ein, indem er seine Gedanken in authentischen fernöstlichen Metaphern zum Ausdruck bringt.
  Fredo68 | May 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 476 (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 (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Golden, Arthurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cobb, JodiCover photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Wilde, BarbaraCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stege, GiselaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weinstein, IrisDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For my wife, Trudy,
and my children, Hays and Tess
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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."
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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.
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