Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
-by Arthur Golden
512 pages (1999)

cliché Geisha?

While a piece of fiction, Memoirs of a Geisha is presented as an actual life story from the viewpoint of a Geisha - definitely an ambitious undertaking, if one considers the fact that the author is a white male from America.

The voice of the story is Chiyo (who is later given the Geisha name "Sayuri"). Her memoirs chronicle her life as young girl sold into a Geisha's life by her poor widowed father. In a stoic, frank way, she narrates the challenges, the desperation, the achievements, the abuse, the secrets, and the cruelty that she experiences as she becomes one of Japan's most prominent Geisha.

While the milieu of the novel is often described in luxuriously striking detail, the characters are never really developed to a great extent throughout the novel. Despite the fact that the plot is charged with emotional intensity, the main characters remain fundamentally cardboard-like and stereotypical - "the antagonist", "the protagonist", "the love interest", and "the benefactor" are painfully obvious and often 2-dimensional and insipid.

Granted, Golden's attention to detail and research into the life of a Geisha is apparent from the outset of the novel. However, the actual writing of the account, while at times enjoyably metaphoric, was mediocre at best.

Nevertheless, Memoirs of a Geisha, in spite of its many flaws and clichés, remains a weekend page-turner that gives us a westernized glimpse into the disquieting life of a Geisha, often shrouded in mystery.

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  1. excellent review bookyeti!!

  2. Thanks for your comment Michelle. :)
    Yes, I too have heard (and figured) that the book wasn't the most accurate. Thanks for further info on the matter. Very interesting!

  3. I read this book too, and then I got more curious about the Geisha lifestyle. I actually learned that his interpretation was flawed in many areas. And that even the "real life" Geisha he interviewed was highly dissappointed and even sued him!

    This is the website where I got some insight into the true Geisha lifestyle...

    Anyway, I did enjoy the book and I liked the movie as well.