TBF: The Book Files: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 

Hello everyone! It’s Book Friday, I. E., the herald to the coming weekend! After much deliberation, I decided that I shall be posting book reviews every Monday and Friday, the days for when we need a pick me up and also arm ourselves with a great book for the weekend, respectively. The book I shall be reviewing today is : 

The Memoirs of a Geisha 
Author : Arthur Golden

Release year : 1997

ISBN : 0-375-40011-7

Available on:

http://www.amazon.in : INR 187/- ( Kindle E-book) and 

INR  197/- (paperback) [Condition : new]

http://www.bookchor.com : INR 88/- (paperback) [Condition : Loved/used]

Other format : Motion picture 

IMaybe it’s because it got me out of a reading slump or just because it’s a poignant, atmospheric and stunningly written novel, I couldn’t put down The Historian and for a speed reader like me, I took extra care to be slow and purposeful throughout, so as to not finish it too soon! For someone like me who loves history and resonates with the many different settings and feelings in the book, it gave me so much homesickness! I do admit that the end could have been a tad more dramatic or even gory as for that matter and if you aren’t a history buff or much of a traveller, the extensive settings and scenes can be over described at points, I still am rating it 5 stars because Kostova’s writing has had me going through a poetic spell!  have been reading since I was able to string words together but I was quite astonished to realise that in my 20 plus years of reading, I had totally missed out on the Japanese culture and writing. This realisation came when I found this particular book online in a sale and decided to give it a go. I didn’t really know what to expect from the book because the writer, translator and interpreter is American but its originally narrated from the perspective of a former Geisha. I am more of a thriller-horror fanatic and I seldom have much patience for drama novels let alone love stories. Because I am a bibliophile and have selective OCD when it comes to books, I can never leave a book unread. If I have it, I shall endure all the pain in the world but finish the book and never touch it again. I was all prepared for the same reaction but I was dumbfounded as I progressed through the book. It was not only entertaining and well written but also so intriguing with its scenes, characters and landscapes that I couldn’t take my eyes off the book.

The story is told through the protagonist, Sayuri, who is a former Geisha, a Japanese entertainer who upon her retirement from the profession recalls her journey of becoming a celebrated and respected figure in the entertainment industry. Setting off from a young aged Sayuri, the story kicks off in a small fishing village called Yoriodo on the coast of the Sea of Japan, where Sayuri (then called Chiyo) and her older sister, Satsu, are sold to a wealthy businessman by her father, a poor fisherman, after the death of their mother. Unable to sustain them and give them a better future, he decides that any life would be better than the crumbling future he can present. Sayuri, grey-eyed and delicately featured, is then given away to a Geisha Boarding House called Okiya in Gion (Kyoto, Tokyo) while her plain featured sister is sold off to a brothel. In a fascinating world with even more fascinating members, her journey from an ordinary girl to the most sought after entertainer begins. 

The scenery surrounding the main plot is what gives it an extra edge. We learn of an age where Geishas were the  epitome of Japanese beauty standards, how even in dire circumstances such as the World War 2, the industry instead of crumbling, boomed and grew and most importantly, the tenous and tedious rituals of rigorous practise required to become an expert. The story is vividly descriptive and has the power of engrossing the reader to the extent of transcendence. It does get overtly narrative and exhausting in a few places but in comparison to the rest of the novel, it is a negligible price to pay. From a small fishing village, through the highest point of entertainment, World War 2 and even beyond, it’s a story like no other, dragging you into its lost world with every word. 

Since Yoriodo,  life puts Chiyo (Sayuri) through a rough path, making her a victim of jealously and rivalry from the other prominent Geisha in the Okiya combined with the desperate longing to go back to her former life. It changes when she meets her love interest, The Chairman, and decides to fight against the odds and become a Geisha in the hopes of meeting him in the future with an elevated status. It’s a story of rivalry, betrayal, compassion, love and most importantly, trust and determination.

Sayuri‘s character is a believable and livable one where the reader can come to terms and understand what she is going through in various incidents and also mirror what they would experience themselves in such circumstances. Her stubbornness and unruly behaviour, determination and vulnerability at the same time sparked with a great sense of humour and wit is quite refreshing. Encased in the turmoil of adaptation is an unconventional love story which I am happy to say, not in the least boring or off-putting!

If in any case we, I. E., you and I share similar interests or you are someone who loves a great drama novel and even if you don’t, I would highly recommend you to give this book a go; especially if this like me, is your first go reading a Japan backdropped story. 

Overall rating : 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

  • Characters : 10/10 ( believable strong characters)
  • Storyline : 9/10 ( 1 for the little places it drags)
  • Writing style : 10/10 ( easily understandable with explanations given for every foreign word to a general audience, making it an easy read for an average reader)

Happy reading! 


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