Memoirs of A Geisha

Memoirs of A Geisha

A Novel

Book - 1997 | 1st ed.
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An alluring tour de force: a brilliant debut novel told with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism as the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.nbsp;nbsp;

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love, always elusive, is scorned as illusion.nbsp;nbsp;

Sayuri's story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Through her eyes, we see the decadent heart of Gion--the geisha district of Kyoto--with its marvelous teahouses and theaters, narrow back alleys, ornate temples, and artists' streets. And we witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it. But as World War II erupts and the geisha houses are forced to close, Sayuri, with little money and even less food, must reinvent herself all over again to find a rare kind of freedom on her own terms.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a book of nuances and vivid metaphor, of memorable characters rendered with humor and pathos. And though the story is rich with detail and a vast knowledge of history, it is the transparent, seductive voice of Sayuri that the reader remembers.

A dazzling literary achievement of empathy and grace by an extraordinary new writer.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375400117
Characteristics: 434 p.


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Jul 09, 2020

I read this book to fulfill the goal read a book set in japan, host of the 2020 Olympics. It is also number 34 in the list of 300 books everyone should read once. I didn't hate it. It had a different ending than i was expecting. kindof bittersweet. It is definitely more of an adult book.

Jun 17, 2020

I really loved this story, but had a difficult time with the narration.

Sep 11, 2019

I have read this wonderful book several times. If you have seen the movie be sure to read the book, it is so much more than the movie.

The author draws you into a world so different than ours from the very first sentence and I recommend it to anyone wanting to escape our Western world and discover a place where customs are so different from ours.

The story is written as if it were nonfiction. The story is told through a geisha (Sayuri) and is transcribed by a friend and published after her death.

The book basically presents the life story of one geisha who through often very harsh events in her life transforms herself from a fisherman’s daughter into one of the most famous geishas of Japan. She is put into a Geisha house which demand very strict discipline and service and has hierarchies that abuse power. Once she reaches her goal, stability of her career is unclear as many events threaten to destroy it as they have for other geishas who are often dragged into lives of prostitution. WWII presents other unexpected challenges she has to face.

This is a enjoyable book about determination within boundaries.

Mar 22, 2019

Memoirs of a Geisha was written by Arthur Golden who based the book off of Mineko Iwasaki, a famous geisha. Memoirs of a Geisha outlines the life of young Chiyo who resided in Yoroido with her father, older sister, and dying mother, and very soon got sold off to a geisha house by a businessman named Mr. Tanaka, while her sister was sent to a brothel. Chiyo suffers the cruel treatment of the okiya’s (geisha house) head, and the wrath of the successful geisha whom they were receiving the proper income from: Hatsumomo. The book explains the details of Chiyo’s life since the day she was sold off to the okiya and also the interruptions that World War II caused during her career. I found this book extremely fascinating, because Golden was a man who was able to write this book in a woman’s perspective, and it was truly convincing. Along with the greatly established point of view, Memoirs of a Geisha was insightful on the life of a geisha and the war’s effect. I would recommend this book to ages 15+ and give it a 4/5 star rating. @ilovefood of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

Hillsboro_JenF Feb 13, 2019

This story takes place in Kyoto, Japan in the 1930’s and 40’s. We follow Chiyo, a poor girl from a fishing village, sold into slavery at age nine. A chance encounter with a kindly businessman known as “The Chairman”, changes her life in ways she could never imagine. As the war ramps up, Chiyo must be resourceful if she is to attain prominence as a geisha and gain the attentions of The Chairman, for whom she longs. The author’s lyrical writing is beautiful; the coming of age story, compelling. There is an emotional intensity that comes from seeing the whole story from our main character’s point-of-view. Overall, I would recommend this for fans of historical fiction and those interested in Japanese culture.

LoganLib_JennyI Jan 02, 2019

Memoirs of a Geisha has been on my "To Read" list for 30 years. This is a wonderful blend of memoir, Cinderella romance, historical fiction and good versus evil.
Memoirs of a Geisha is a very dramatic tale of a young village girl taken from her family and raised in Kyoto as a geisha. Golden uses metaphors and similes to evoke powerful images of the social customs, traditions and culture prior to and during the WWII era in Japan. At times it was hard to read as I felt so deeply for the characters. sometimes the hardships and cruelty seemed too much for such a young girl with no family support.

Dec 15, 2018

I read this years ago & must have enjoyed it since I checked out the audio for a review (and nothing else on my list available.) Normally I like this narrator, not for this tedious account. Yes, I too, thought the geisha info was interesting and archaic. A drastic difference to Western culture, except that's probably what Asian culture says about the Western.

Dec 11, 2018

a great novel. if you enjoyed it, try "snow country" by the nobel laureate kawabata.

Nov 19, 2018

Since I received this book for Christmas over a decade ago, I have made a point to reread it every year as it is one of the few books so lush and rich in detail, so utterly captivating in style and content, that my mind is whisked away each time I traverse its pages. This is my favorite book, and if you like perfectly polished imagery and escapism, it will certainly make your day.

Nov 13, 2018


CHARACTERS: I absolutely love Sayuri. This is maybe the second or third time that I have read this book, and I just really, really love Sayuri. She is fictional, but she feels real and fleshed out. Her backstory is sad, but the fact that she fights in the unique geisha way for what she wants in order to not starve as a pauper is really inspiring. Even though she lost her mother, father, and her sister, she is able to unconsciously work through the challenges as a young girl, and then consciously as a woman. Her story is an eye-opening window into the lives of geisha in Japan, and the cutthroat competition that it included.
PLOT: Amazing. Every single time I read this, it is just like the water that Sayuri has too much of: gentle, yet forceful, and cold to the touch. This plot is one of the most amazing that I have ever enjoyed. From a young girl sold to the okiya (geisha house) to an apprentice of Mameha (awesome. Amazing character) to geisha of the man she loves, her story is moving, powerful, and cannot be missed.
ACCURACY: As far as accuracy goes, this story delves into the makeup, wax, rouge, and hair ornaments as well as the cost, debts, and payments of the geisha life. I haven’t studied this, but from my perspective it is a very well-researched novel.
RECOMMENDATION: This book has five out of five stars, and I love it. However, it should not be read by readers under fifteen-sixteen. It is a story about women used as sexual … not toys, more than that… but basically glorified prostitutes. (I am probably bungling that. Sorry). Anyway, the idea is that there is lots of sexuality in this book.

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Apr 09, 2020

pg 142 "A drum may seem like an instrument even a child can play, but actually there are various ways of striking each of them... and each produces a different sound, but only after a great deal of practice. ... always in view of the public, so all these instruments must be graceful and attractive, as well as in unison with the other players. Half the work is making the right sound; the other half is in doing it the proper way."


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