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Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)

by Arthur Golden

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
36,73456265 (4)538
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.
  1. 200
    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
    Geisha by Liza Dalby (SqueakyChu, MartinRohrbach, Leishai)
    Leishai: Ein gutes Buch für Europäer oder Amerikaner zum Verständnis der japanischen Geisha-Kultur.
  5. 51
    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (krizia_lazaro)
  6. 30
    The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon by Sei Shonagon (brightbel)
  7. 63
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (caflores)
  8. 20
    Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (Catt172)
  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)
  10. 20
    Kimonos by Sophie Milenovich (JuliaMaria)
  11. 20
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (sturlington)
  12. 01
    Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee (dawnlovesbooks)
  13. 01
    Jia by Hye-Jin Kim (meggyweg)
  14. 01
    The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (cransell)
  15. 05
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (MartinRohrbach)

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» See also 538 mentions

English (527)  Spanish (15)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Italian (2)  Greek (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (557)
Showing 1-5 of 527 (next | show all)
An excellent, compelling read. ( )
  LyndaWolters1 | Apr 3, 2024 |
The most fascinating thing about this book was easily the level of historical detail it incorporated. The story and characters didn't always captivate me, but somehow I had trouble putting it down and not reading one more paragraph (which without fail became two more chapters). The language and metaphors were beautiful and only added to the presence of the time and place.

The ending took me by surprise; I could hardly finish the last couple chapters because I just knew it was going to end horribly. I still haven't decided whether it fit or not. The stream-reaching-ocean metaphor is somehow not very Western, where I think we don't (reflexively, at least) believe in fate. ( )
  caedocyon | Feb 23, 2024 |
This is a book to be revisited in the future. There is more depth here than can be taken in with just one reading. A fictional memoir of a girl growing into womanhood like Jane Eyre, but in an eastern culture and different time period.

The only drawback I had, was at times I think the language reflected a more modern American instead of an historically accurate portrayal of a geisha during the 1930s of Japan.

I understand why this book is on the top 100 for Great American Read. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Jan 14, 2024 |
A great story and a great insight into changes world. Really well written. ( )
  SteveMcI | Dec 29, 2023 |
The easy-to-read way that this book was written had me absolutely convinced that the story was true. It wasn't until finishing it this morning and reading the author's notes that I realized it was just a wonderfully written piece of pure fiction! (Feeling a little disappointed now!) It's been a really long time since I have enjoyed a book so much. ( )
  classyhomemaker | Dec 11, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 527 (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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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.
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