Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

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 worlds 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 1930's, where a young peasant girl is sold as a 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 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. 

Published by: Vintage - Fiction
Pages: 428
ISBN: 978-0099498189

At times I had to remind myself that this was in fact a fiction not a memoir. It was so well written taking you back to a time when young girls were sold by their families, usually due to their circumstances and not being able to provide for the children.  In this instance the young peasant girls mother is terminally ill and her father has no work leaving him only one option but to let his daughters go.  The two girls initially think they are going to be adopted but soon find themselves living in the tea houses of Kyoto. Once separated the two sisters only see each other once more.  Initially the younger daughter is to be trained as a servant to the resident Geisha but when they see how striking the colour and shape of her eyes they decide she may well be perfect for training as a future Geisha.  It takes many years of practice and attending Geisha school until her mentor decides she is ready.  As a child she had met a man she refers to as the Director. He had been very kind to her and had given her his handkerchief when she was upset.  She had always kept it. Once a fully fledged Geisha she always hoped that the Director would become her sponsor for she had fallen in love with him as a child and had continued to love him into adult hood.  Eventually she moves to America and this is where she is now retelling her story from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. 

Through all the heartache she experiences from child - adult hood her story is essentially a love story but will it have a happy ending?

This was a bookswap with my bookswap colleague.  I did enjoy reading the book and I believe it was made into a film so it may be one I will have to try and find on dvd to watch to see how near to the book it is.

If you are looking for a nice holiday read I would certainly recommend this one. 


1 comment:

  1. At one time I read a lot of books and watched documentaries about Japan as I was privately tutoring Japanese families who were living in England. I remember watching the movie of Memoirs of a Geisha and also reading a non fiction book written by someone who trained to become a geisha which I found fascinating.


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