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Memoirs of a Giesha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Giesha (1997)

by Arthur Golden

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
29,17546531 (4.01)460
Recently added byKassiddy, Rena37, l_affinity, afrenchreader, phoibee, LisaMorr, leannn, private library, jenucht
  1. 170
    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: A Novel by Lisa See (goodiegoodie)
  3. 62
    Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (caflores)
  4. 40
    Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Beautifully written story of a geisha who fares better than Sayo Masuda.
  5. 51
    Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (krizia_lazaro)
  6. 20
    Geisha in Rivalry by Nagai Kafu (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)
  7. 20
    Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (Catt172)
  8. 31
    Geisha by Liza Dalby (SqueakyChu, MartinRohrbach, Leishai)
    Leishai: Ein gutes Buch für Europäer oder Amerikaner zum Verständnis der japanischen Geisha-Kultur.
  9. 20
    The pillow book by Sei Shonagon (brightbel)
  10. 10
    Kimonos (365 Series) by Sophie Milenovich (JuliaMaria)
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    Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee (amanaceerdh)
  12. 01
    Jia: A Novel of North Korea by Hyejin Kim (meggyweg)
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  14. 05
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (MartinRohrbach)

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» See also 460 mentions

English (441)  Spanish (10)  Dutch (6)  French (3)  Italian (1)  All (1)  Finnish (1)  All (463)
Showing 1-5 of 441 (next | show all)
I liked this novel at the time I read it, but not passionately. I think now I'd have a lot to say about Orientalism and white male fantasies and it would probably make it uncomfortable. A lot of the images have stuck with me, but I think they are also misrepresentations. I think the images stuck because they are white invention and fantasy.
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Quite a feat of historical immersion, conjuring up the world of a Kyoto geisha in the 1930s. But the tone fell somewhat flat for me, a methodical plodding from event to description to event with little liveliness or poetry. There's also a Dickensian/romance novel theme throughout: will the heroine find true love with her beloved Chairman, for whom she pines for about 400 pages? Guess. A pleasant read, but not my taste in historical fiction. ( )
  adzebill | Feb 19, 2017 |
Un de smeilleurs livres que j'ai lu. J'ai reussi à être emporté dans un japon où la culture occidentale commencée à être incorporé et où, malgré tout, certaines traditions ancestrales ont été gardées. La vie des geishas est merveilleusement bien décrite, et on s'attache rapidement au personnage principal. ( )
1 vote AmelLou | Jan 18, 2017 |
Beautiful story. Has some of the best metaphors I've ever seen. I'd read this book several times when I was younger, and I haven't read it in over 5 years. I could still remember things that happened, but this is one of those books that I wish I could go back and reread without having a prior knowledge.

A great book. Certainly read it before watching the movie. ( )
  mckzlve | Dec 17, 2016 |
Like many people, I was obsessed with Japanese culture as a kid and read this book partially because of that. I grew up and grew out of my obsession, but then re-read this book in 2016. Here are my thoughts on it. I knew, going into it, that Arthur Golden was not an actual geisha, that he was an American man writing from the perspective of a Japanese woman, and a lot of people found this offensive. However, from the Acknowledgements section in the back of the book, it's evident that he did his research. The book was first published in 1997, and the book mentions research going as far back as 1992. This isn't the case of some fanboy writing shit just because he could. In my opinion.

I also felt that the prose style was good. I liked the comparisons and I felt that in most cases they made sense. I liked the way Golden described the male customers best; you came away with a good idea of their personalities and their appearances. There was a wide variety there, which I appreciated since I think most of the writing done on Japanese culture often relies on stereotypes and only has like two archetypes of Japanese men (the Wise Old Man and the Hot Martial Artists). So it was nice to see writing that reflected a wider range of masculinity.

I felt like the beginning and middle of the book was best. At a certain point, about the time Hatsumomo disappears, the book sort of drags on, and Sayuri's obsession with The Chairman becomes the main focus (moreso than at the beginning and middle, since at least then she was doing her apprentice training and going to parties). I thought the chapter taking place on the Amami Islands was fairly ridiculous, but maybe that was the point. I also really, as much as I empathized with Sayuri's character, couldn't take the way she treated Nobu. Becoming friends with someone is one thing, but leading them on for financial gain for fifteen years and then dropping them for their best friend is kind of shitty. I'm still giving this book five stars because it's the first book in a long time that I really really loved. It's a long book, over 400 pages, but I was so caught up in the story that I finished it in a short amount of time. ( )
2 vote heart77 | Dec 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 441 (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.
Quite a feat of historical immersion, conjuring up the world of a Kyoto geisha in the 1930s. But the tone fell somewhat flat for me, a methodical plodding from event to description to event with little liveliness or poetry. There's also a Dickensian/romance novel theme throughout: will the heroine find true love with her beloved Chairman, for whom she pines for about 400 pages? Guess. A pleasant read, but not my taste in historical fiction.

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Golden, Arthurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cobb, JodiCover photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Wilde, BarbaraCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stege, GiselaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weinstein, IrisDesignersecondary 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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:27 -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.

» see all 13 descriptions

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