Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)

by Arthur Golden

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
26,513None39 (4.01)392
1001 (95) 1001 books (85) 20th century (148) American (83) Asia (134) Asian (66) book club (85) contemporary fiction (74) culture (86) fiction (2,702) geisha (818) historical (254) historical fiction (1,086) history (152) Japan (1,864) Japanese (136) Japanese culture (119) literature (144) love (109) made into movie (94) memoir (144) movie (86) novel (331) own (151) read (370) romance (248) to-read (243) unread (109) women (204) WWII (252)
  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
    Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Beautifully written story of a geisha who fares better than Sayo Masuda.
  6. 31
    Geisha by Liza Dalby (SqueakyChu, MartinRohrbach, Leishai)
    Leishai: Ein gutes Buch für Europäer oder Amerikaner zum Verständnis der japanischen Geisha-Kultur.
  7. 10
    The pillow book by Sei Shonagon (brightbel)
  8. 00
    Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (Catt172)
  9. 01
    Jia: A Novel of North Korea by Hyejin Kim (meggyweg)
  10. 01
    The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (cransell)
  11. 01
    Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee (amanaceerdh)
  12. 04
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (MartinRohrbach)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 392 mentions

English (386)  Spanish (9)  Dutch (6)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  Chinese, traditional (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (408)
Showing 1-5 of 386 (next | show all)
“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.”

Wow, this is a surprising book.Now I've said in other reviews that if I have a favourite genre then its history or more accurately social history and this book reveals a lifestyle I know nothing of and which has now vanished.

The story is certainly cruel at times there are also touches of deep humour. The book follows the tale of Chiyo whom along with her sister Satsu are taken from their penniless father and dying mother and sold into an okiya in Gion. Chiyo who is younger with striking blue eyes is to be trained as a geisha whilst her sister is sold into prostitution although here the lines become a little blurred as the only way a geisha can really make money is to become a mistress to a wealthy 'danna' and therefore sells sex for favor a bit like prostitution really. Ultimately in both instances their job is to entertain wealthy men. The geishas are seen as an investment who must repay for their owners for food, clothing, lodgings and training out of any future earnings. The quickest way to do this is by the sale of their 'mizuage' or virginity. It was certainly amusing as Chiyo (who becomes renamed as Sayuri) is explained the facts of life by her mentor Mameha who speaks of a man's 'homeless eel'. Even after they have repaid all there debts they are still expected to contribute towards the running of the okiya so continuing the cycle of abuse.

You certainly feel for Chiyo/Sayuri in her trials and tribulations as she grows older but despite the dark nature of the material this is not a maudlin tale but one of a society that we in the West cannot hope to understand. Perhaps that is the most surprising part of the book as it is hard to imagine life like this even in 1930's Japan because nowadays it is seen as an advanced country rather than a third World one whereas if it took part in some less developed country it would not surprise us at all.

My main complaint with this book is that it is written by an American and you can certainly see from the last few chapters how it is aimed at an American mass market. That said I still found it a remarkable book and one that I feel will last with me for a while. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 17, 2014 |
This powerful, impassioned tale showcases a life every American likely knows about, but knows nothing of. It was truly incredible to see the story progress and, while the ending wasn't a fairy tale one, it couldn't have ended any other way. ( )
1 vote benuathanasia | Apr 1, 2014 |
It’s engaging and an easy read. I really enjoyed this book. Much better than the movie version :) ( )
  Theuglydaughter | Mar 19, 2014 |
Saw the movie!
  ClosetWryter | Mar 3, 2014 |
The best book I've read in terms of transformation. ( )
  veronica_maria1023 | Dec 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 386 (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.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series

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)

» see all 11 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (4.01)
0.5 9
1 93
1.5 30
2 310
2.5 89
3 1421
3.5 343
4 3021
4.5 352
5 2669


Four editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 89,494,361 books! | Top bar: Always visible