Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

Five stars, read and reviewed in November 2010.

When this movie came out, I had some random preconceived notions about it and didn’t want to see it. So don’t ask me why I chose the book for the “Adapted to Movies” category of my 10/10/10 challenge—I really don’t know. But I am thrilled that I did.

You know I love Asian literature, particularly Amy Tan and Lisa See. This was one of my first trips to Japan, though—the others have mostly been in China, through no particular planning on my part. But from the very beginning, Memoirs of a Geisha turned out to be one that I didn’t want to put down.

The story begins with Chiyo, a young girl whose mother is dying. She thinks that she and her sister are going to be adopted by a wealthy man in the town, but instead they are sold to him by their father, and the wealthy man in turn sells them to someone else. Chiyo is sent to an okiya, where—if she shows promise—she will be trained to become a geisha. Her sister is made into a prostitute in a nearby town.

The details about geisha life were really fascinating to me, and Sayuri (her name after she becomes a geisha) is such an relatable character despite the fact that, as a Japanese girl living in the years before World War II, she is part of a culture that is very different from my own. The history is so interesting, and the story is compellingly written. I checked out the movie from the library before I was even finished with the book, and though I know I’ll probably like the book better, I’m excited to watch it. If you’re interested in a historical novel, this is a great one to try.


3 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

  1. Unfortunately this is not a favorite read of mine 😦 I felt it was a bit unrealistic when it came to depiction of women ( I don’t know many women who would have fallen in love with a guy who is considerably older than they are…) and there also was controversy between the author and Mineko Iwasaki who felt he did not depict the Japanese culture accurately.


    1. I know, I suspect I would have problems with it if I read it now. 😕 I didn’t think the age difference was very realistic either, but I read it several years ago, and I wouldn’t have thought about the other issues back then.


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