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Memoirs of a Geisha (Random House Large…

Memoirs of a Geisha (Random House Large Print) (original 1997; edition 2005)

by Arthur Golden (Author)

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32,40050851 (4)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.
Title:Memoirs of a Geisha (Random House Large Print)
Authors:Arthur Golden (Author)
Info:Random House Large Print (2005), 768 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997)

  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)
  10. 20
    Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner (Catt172)
  11. 10
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (sturlington)
  12. 01
    The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (cransell)
  13. 01
    Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee (dawnlovesbooks)
  14. 01
    Jia: A Novel of North Korea by Hyejin Kim (meggyweg)
  15. 05
    The Physician by Noah Gordon (MartinRohrbach)

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» See also 495 mentions

English (481)  Spanish (12)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (506)
Showing 1-5 of 481 (next | show all)
An amazing book. The character grabbed me from page 1 all the way to the end. There was just no way to not fall in love with her! ( )
  Nora_Max | Sep 16, 2020 |
An amazing book. The character grabbed me from page 1 all the way to the end. There was just no way to not fall in love with her! ( )
  Nora_Max | Sep 16, 2020 |
An amazing book. The character grabbed me from page 1 all the way to the end. There was just no way to not fall in love with her! ( )
  Nora_Max | Sep 16, 2020 |
Years ago when this first came out I read a number of articles about it and decided I didn't need to read it. However, years later it came into my house (I actually have two copies) so eventually I did decide to go ahead and read it. I did not remember what the controversies were that surrounded it, so I looked them up.

There were complaints that this version skims the surface and does not truly represent what the life of a geisha is. Of course, how well can a western man understand such culture? Doing a lot of research may help but I'm not sure it can really help get one into the mind of a geisha. A related issue is that one of the acknowledged sources sued Golden. She was a former geisha who spoke to Golden about her life. She later said he misrepresented it badly and that he had "outed" her by listing her in his acknowledgements. Geishas value privacy, understandably.

I kept these issues in mind while reading. I was able to enjoy the book as a tale of a young woman in Japan in the 1930s on into the 1940s and beyond. I gather this was something of a heyday for the geisha operation, with many more in the geisha districts than there are now.

The tale is of a nine-year-old girl who is sold to a geisha house (okiya) when her mother is dying of cancer and her father can no longer care for his daughters. Initially rebellious, little Chiyo eventually came to recognize that a geisha's life might be good for her. Fortunately, she was aided by a recognized older geisha in getting on the right track and eventually she became a highly-sought-after geisha.

Not much of it was simple, but Chiyo - later called Sumaya - was determined and had enough intelligence and native ability to do well. Throughout her young geisha life and through the war, when she had to turn to other pursuits, she was haunted by memories of an encounter with "the Chairman" she'd had as a young girl. Though she willingly accepted a "danna" - a type of keeper - and continued to entertain men, her sights were always on the Chairman, whom she did get to know a little (but did not know if he remembered meeting her when she was little).

What I find interesting here are the details of everyday life for geishas. While many are able to come out from under an okiya and live independently and richly, nevertheless, there are rules for all geishas and they are all, ultimately, controlled by men. Yet, of course, in their own way they do exert a kind of control too.

I found it disturbing that so much of the entertaining that a geisha does is to engage men in drinking games. Different excuses but always the same results: drink more sake. I'd think this would get very old in a short while. But of course a geisha is a complex creature with many talents, and she can entertain in other ways - dance, sing, tell stories.

In a way it is state-sanctioned slavery, even though the slaves can live very well.

And of course I have only this book for my research. I am tempted now to look up the book by the geisha Golden cites as a source, for she later wrote her own actual autobiography. That should be revealing. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
This book might not be accurate. It might not be respectful and may be guilty of "white-gaze" depiction of oriental culture. But this book is the best thing I have read in a while. It is written so very well, with perfect pacing and amazing writing. The words flow, and you feel everything that Sayuri wants to make you feel. The characters come alive, and you feel bad when one of them leaves.
I've read books in this genre and have felt oppressed by a lot of them. While, this one began as something haunting it turned out as something hauntingly beautiful. I loved how Sayuri's character described things.
The ending seemed rushed and an American writer writing about atrocities of war against the Japanese can't be expected to do any better.

I couldn't understand Sayuri's obsession with the chairman. I hated the big reveal at the end because it amplified the amount of sexism women like Geisha's faced. Their whole "destiny" dependent on men and their own feminine qualities of wooing these men.
I knew what I was getting into but I am so very glad nothing like this exists anymore. ( )
  AzuraScarlet | Aug 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 481 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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