Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Review)

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“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.” 

The story is narrated by an older Sayuri, the famous Geisha that this memoir is about. It starts from her childhood, through the death of her mother and her push into the Geisha life, aswell as her rivalry with Hatsumomo. That is until, she finds the help of another Geisha, who helps her train and it’s at this point you really see a maturation of Sayuri. She becomes one of the most popular and expensive Geisha in all of Gion, and men are entranced by her blue-grey eyes. It follows Sayuri’s life before, during and after the war and ends with her finding love and moving to live in New York.

I really did love this book, even if it did take me ages to read it. Golden has a beautiful writing style, that’s incredibly descriptive and creative. There is a good pace, even if a little slow in places, but you’re attention is captivated by the start, especially when combined with the delicacy of the writing.

I’m not familiar enough with Japanease history or culture to know whether this is actually an accurate representation, but I’ve heard it’s not. Did this make me enjoy it any less? No.

Golden did a fantastic job with the characters, who were so complex and realistic and down to earth. Sayuri was a child when she entered Gion. She had a tough life but persevered and become incredibly successful. She’s so obviously smart and strong, even if she didn’t speak out to defend herself. You must have to be strong to put up with Mother and Hatsumumo. That leads me to the spoilt brat that is Hatsumumo that I really disliked – actually no, I hated.

The romance was something that developed throughout the story. The whole point of her becoming a Geisha was for a man, The Chairman, who she felt attached to ever since he comforted her at the river. Whether or not I enjoyed this romance, or whether or not I approve of how she eventually got him (because I rather like Nobu, who had shown her kindness,) is a different matter.

It doesn’t matter, because I still absolutely loved this.

RATING: ★★★★★

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