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Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden - Book Review


Memoirs Of A Geisha
Arthur Golden

Fiction-Net Rating 5 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan's most dramatic history, the geisha's story uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. It moves from a small fishing village in 1929 to the glamorous and decadent Kyoto of the 1930's and on to postwar New York.

We Say

Whenever a novel about a particular culture is written by an author who is not a member of that culture, I hesitate to read it. I have been terribly disappointed by the various attempts to glamorise, patronise or bash various cultures through what many consider to be a great piece of literature. Seldom is an author able to just tell the story. I was completely prepared to dislike Arthur Golden's novel, Memoirs Of A Geisha. As a second-generation Japanese-American, I was determined to find fault with this book. No such luck. Arthur Golden's novel, Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel written with incredible insight and honesty.

It is apparent that Golden has done his homework. Certain sights or smells or images can cause me to remember an event in my childhood. Memoirs Of A Geisha conjured images of my trips to Japan to visit my grandparents. The descriptions of the food eaten, the houses and the daily life brought back memories that I had long forgotten. The main character, Sayuri is created so skillfully that she was able to explain certain aspects of Japanese culture with an ease I envy. Whilst Arthur Golden was honest about his character's life, I was not offended by the way her life story was told.

Most 'foreigners' cannot understand how the wives of prominent Japanese men could stand having their husbands visit the Geisha, and the common belief is that a Geisha is just a high class prostitute. For those that want to keep believing that a Geisha is a prostitute, this novel will not really change their mind. However, for those who really want to understand the world of a Geisha, this book will enlighten and educate. Most Americans do not remember that marriages born of love were the exception in Japan. I imagine that in an arranged marriage, many women welcomed the relief a Geisha could provide and for a poor peasant girl, the life of a Geisha meant a life of comfort versus a life of poverty and hardship.

A woman's life in Japan during World War Two compared with women all over the world was really no different despite the many attempts to place cultural boundaries on a woman's experience. It is all a matter of perspective. Memoirs Of A Geisha is not only about the life of a Geisha, it is also about the experiences of a woman faced with difficult choices. I could not wait to finish reading this novel and I when I was finished, I didn't want it to end.

I would rate Memoirs Of A Geisha as one of the best books I have ever read. It was well worth the time and I encourage everyone to read it.

Review by: Yumi Nagasaki-Taylor

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