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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read
This is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. It is tied for the best and favorite with McCrae’s explosive, funny, and shocking “A Tour of Southern Homes and Gardens.” Memoirs of A Geisha is a wonderful book that captivates the reader from page one. My only disappointment with the book is that it wasn't longer. When's the...
Published on March 11 2006 by Fanny

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3.0 out of 5 stars Inaccurate portrayal, but written to please the reader
So everyone has talked and talked the life out of this book. And I myself have read it more than once. However, there is a lot of inaccuracy and since it is my culture I may notice it more than others. I think it is perhaps worth noting that the author is a very young individual and may not have grasped the true japanese culture or moreover the even more complex and...
Published on Jan. 2 2006


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5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable, March 8 2005
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Paperback)
Golden's richly detailed writing style enhances the prose in 'Memoirs of a Geisha' although his liberal use of ornate metaphors can be tiring to some readers. Young Chiyo, who adopts the geisha name Sayuri, starts life as a little girl from a fishing village called Yoroido and transforms into a celebrated geisha in Gion. The adult Sayuri in the last third of the novel is almost unrecognizable from the Chiyo of the beginning, making Golden's fictional depiction of the evolution of a girl worth a read in its own right. MEMOIRS OF A GESHIA is thoroughly researched and well-conceived, but probably not true-to-life, which is acceptable given that it is a novel and not a memoir. As a novel, though, 'Memoir' could feature better development of Hatsumomo's character. Clearly, Hatsumomo is an evil, wicked fiend but what about her redeeming qualities? Is it her undeniable beauty, or the fact that at one point she said to Sayuri what is quite possibly THE meanest insult that I have ever read in a novel? I want to be able to like Hatsumomo for more than just the sole fact that she is so incredibly and entertainingly evil. The last fifty or sixty pages of the novel seem to fall into place fairly conveniently with new revelations that essentially clear up the tumultuous rubble that built up in the second half of the story. This is not to say that the ending is lazy, but it is simply not as absorbing as the beginning in certain respects. The book, which is set during the Great Depression and World War II, gets more discouraging as Sayuri grows older and more worldly. With notable skill and style--especially for a debut novelist--Golden uses Sayuri's younger sensibilities to paint the first parts of the story in a more hopeful hue than in her adult chapters. See for yourself. MEMOIRS is good as long as it is read as more of a fictional tale than as an authoritative text on geisha life.
Also recommended: THE CHILDREN'S CORNER by Jackson McCrae
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3.0 out of 5 stars fine as fiction, but don't take it as fact, June 20 2004
By 
Shannon "elflass" (Flower Mound, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
I enjoyed this book and have read it several times, as I have long been interested in the culture of geisha. The writing style of this novel is enjoyable and Golden's descriptive details (especially of elements such as clothing) weave a mental image of a world full of wealth, culture and beauty.
My only issues with this book are the elements of inaccuracy. This is not so much in the details of the geisha world, but more in character flaws. I find it hard to believe that Sayuri would continue to pine for the Chairman for so many years in the manner that she does; this clashes with the somewhat sober and self-restrained Japanese idea of "getting on with things." Perhaps in the pampered world of Gion a girl like Sayuri might have had more leisure to think such things, though in many ways the geisha world is austere and bound to the rules of their arts and the closely-bound, insular society. At any rate, it just doesn't ring true, and her continued harping on the idea gets annoying; this absense of fluidity in the floating world makes Sayuri's character seem stunted, like an instrument stuck on one tuning. The fact that the relationship turns out as it does makes it all the more unrealistic.
Also, the character of Hatsumomo, Sayuri's great rival in the Nitta household, is far too one-dimensional. It's very easy to under-develop a character in such a way and make them all evil or all good. Had her character been tempered with some other qualities this might have been avoided, but she is singularly cast as the evil harpy standing in Sayuri's way. Of course, as in any other social group, there would be rivalries and jealousies, but Hatsumomo's flat bitterness and jealousy place her too easily into the Snidely Whiplash role.
Learn more about the subject of geisha before you take this book as gospel. Liza Dalby's _Geisha_, John Gallagher's _Geisha: A Unique World of Tradition, Elegance and Art_, and Kyoko Aihara's _Geisha_ are great places to start. Certainly you should enjoy this book as fiction, but do recognize it as such, and keep its flaws in mind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it as a FICTIONAL story!, May 2 2004
By 
"bookish_bear" (Canada and proud of it! :D) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Paperback)
I loved this book as a FICTIONAL story. I cannot emphasize that enough!!
If you really want to understand what being geisha is all about, I suggest reading Mineko Iwasaki's Book called "Geisha, A Life" - an autobiography of one of Japan's best geishas in history. It's an ACTUAL book from an ACTUAL real-life geisha.
This book however, was excellent, if taken as a story, and nothing more than a story. Geishas are not prostitutes [courtesans/"oirans"] bought and sold, and it isn't quite as harsh as it seems, it's just a different outlook on life. Geishas are PERFORMING artists who entertained women, men and even their whole families!!
This fairytale follows a life of a fictional character named "Sayuri" (her given geisha name). She travels through the flower and willow world, learning the geisha profession and entertaining. Lots of intricate plots, complexities and emotional twinges - perfect for a rainy day. The characters are vibrant, realistic and their personalities (either nasty or sweet) are well portrayed through Golden's superb writing. I didn't find this book difficult to read, and on the whole most of the people I recommended this book to, loved it!
It was a truly difficult book to put down. You were always led into another section, and you HAD to find out what happened there.. to put it in more solid terms, I have astigmatism which makes it hard for me to read in cars and on subways.. but I just couldn't put the book down, no matter how much of a splitting headache I got. And after I finished, I read it again.
Golden's writing is beautiful, a great story to read, the research is half done, and much of it glossed over in favour of more salacious details. I'm all for recommending this book - it is one of my favourite stories to read over and over again, but take the information provided with a grain of salt.
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3.0 out of 5 stars PEEK INTO THE LIFE OF A GEISHA......., April 24 2004
By 
Dana Y. Bowles "DYB" (West Chester, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
I finally had to read this book to see what all of the "hoopla" was about. Now I know! Beautifully penned tale about a young Japanese girl who is sold by her family...and thrust into a life as a young maid in a faraway town. Alone and unhappy, Chiyo remembers forever the kindness shown her by the handsome Chairman, who find her crying--and gives her his handkerchief to dry her tears. Although her life is further complicated by the presence Hatsumomo,the moneymaking geisha of the okiya where she lives and works, Chiyo finds strength in the memory of the Chairman. Known for her remarkable grey eyes, Chiyo is eventually taken under the wing of another, more successful geisha--the beautiful Mameha, from another okiya. Under her tutelage, Chiyo--now known as Sayuri--becomes one of the most successful geisha ever in Gion. But the beautiful grey-eyed geisha dreams forever of the Chairman..
This book was a lesson in a Japanese lifestyle and culture, a story full of grief, and lastly a love story. Not to be missed.
DYB
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel, engaging story, Feb. 9 2004
By 
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
I notice that many of the negative reviews center on two criticisms: One, it was written by a man, and two, that it's not "Japanese". The first criticism is simply inane. That implies any man who ever wrote a female character, or vice versa, wrote beyond their "sphere of experience" and was by definition flawed. Of course Golden has the ability to understand and get into the mind of a Geisha. The simple act of writing a female character in first person does not make this a bad book, and anyone who thinks it does is foolish.
Second, as for criticisms about the research, it is important to remember this book is a novel. Foremost it's a vehicle to convey a story while exposing the reader to a short timeframe of an incredibly complicated lifestyle; which itself is a tiny component of overall 1930's Japanese society. It is not meant to be a history book, not meant to be a dissertation on Geisha lifestyle, and it certainly isn't an attempt to emulate Geisha in Japanese literature. Again, to think this is anything other than a novel is foolish.
Having said that, this IS a very well written and engaging novel. It's a page turner. Golden has a rare gift of prose - the reader is drawn in and kept in suspense. It's not complicated or deep - there are no hidden messages or deep revelations. This does not mean, however, that it is a sophomoric effort. Rather than being one dimensional, the characters are quite multifaceted, and I can only assume some of the negative reviewers didn't quite understand that. Hatsumomo is clearly a woman on top of her game, who is scared to death of her future and will use her intelligence and amoral conscience to protect herself. Sayuri is an intelligent and resourceful woman who, rather than being a submissive doll, is determined to find her own path to stand and succeed, as did her mentor Mameha. And yes, it was a sexist, degrading world they lived in with few options. Golden says this verbatim through his characters. To reviewers calling this a work of sexism, what exactly DO you think 1930's Japan was like?
This is no a stellar work of literature. Golden never had any illusions as such. It's a simple, easy, engaging novel; a good story, with mildly complex characters in a well-researched setting.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining fluff - but infuriating, Sept. 29 2003
By 
"k_hoyak" (Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Paperback)
Why is a middle aged white guy from New England writing about a young, Japanese Geisha during WWII? About 1/4 of the way through the book this conflict becomes painfully obvious by the stagnent, docile, stereotypical over-emotional female reactions that Golden burdens his character with.
Why doesn't Chiyo ever give her opinion? She couldn't possibly be that ambivalent towards the U.S. bombing her country to smithareens. Her character is built up to a woman who perseveres, fights for glory, but then becomes a spineless tool when it matters.
What is with the superficial, two dimensional relationship with the Chairman? It is not believable, and by the end of the novel I was shaking with rage at being cheated by this fluff.
It's unfortunate that the ending was so idiotic - "I'm wonderful, you're wonderful, everything is wonderful". That's a climax? What a let down.
Nevertheless, I have to give it 3 stars. I could not put it down. If you are looking for a mind-numbing soap opera to fritter your days away, this is the book for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Useful book or World Literature Classes/Units, July 28 2003
By A Customer
I am a 9th grade English teacher and my only regret about this book is that I cannot use it in my classroom, according to curriculum guidelines. However, I would highly suggest this book to a teacher or professor who is interested in teaching literature or literary devices from a world literature perspective. I am in love with this book and have recommended it to all my friends. The author throws us into a Japanese culture that is not well known or understood by foreigners and even Japanese people themselves ( I read this latter fact in several other books about Geisha). The content of this book opened my eyes to the mysterious dynamics between men and women, the potent power of a seductive and beautiful woman, and the sad plight of women all over the world who must humble themselves and serve others to the point of self degradation for the right to live. The only thing that was puzzled me was this question:Is Sayuri a real person who dictated her memoirs to "Jacobsan" or was she truly and completely fictitious; a compilation of Japanese history and biographical/historical accounts? I would highly recommend the audio version (on CD) as read by Bernadette Dunne. Although I have listened the abridged audiocassete version by the other gal, Ms. Dunne's reading is much better and more enticing. I listened to the book on CD as I commuted to work and it was very difficult to turn off the car and in to work...many times (while doing errands in my car) I would drive an extra 30 minutes or so just to get to the end of a chapter or CD. This is a GRRRRRRRREAT book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel to Savor!!!, May 9 2003
By 
M. Allen Greenbaum (California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
This is one of the most beautifully written novels of the past 20 or more years, and definitely one of my personal favorites. Arthur Golden, a student of Japanese art and language, paints a remarkably true-sounding account of one woman's training and practice as a geisha. There's not a false note in the writing: The characters, dialogue, and emotional content all ring true. Aside from some slightly plodding descriptions of the protagonist's introduction to the geisha district of Gion, the pacing is excellent.
I kept waiting for Golden to slip, for some implausibility in character or plot development, some anachronism or "artistic license" that would have made me feel cheated-but it never happened. Without further research, it's difficult for me to comment on the book's historical and cultural accuracy, but it always felt true, and Golden's simple but powerful language is absolutely compelling. The book surpassed my already high expectations, and increased my appreciation of--and curiousity about--historical Japanese social structure in general, and geisha culture in particular. Above all, this is a completely satisfying book about perseverance within boundaries. Both the story and the writing are filled with grace, power, and beauty.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing story and....., Jan. 3 2003
By 
Angie (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Paperback)
"Memoirs of a Geisha" was a beautiful story to me. A lot of reviewers here are complaining about the novel's "lack of reality". However, we must remember that this is a novel, a story, and not a history textbook. There are certain to be some discrepencies, and if you ask me, Golden did a lot of hard and successful research for the writing of this book.
I found the prose and use of metaphor and descriptives really effective. The main disappointment to me was the book's ending. It seemed to me rushed and just wrong, especially in the case of Nobu. I found that Golden didn't give the reader enough material for any real feeling towards the Chairman. One even must question Sayuri's infatuation with this man whom she hardly sees; and this infatuation is so strong that in the end she is willing to hurt a good man like Nobu to be with him. Chairman is quite a one-dimensional character, unlike Nobu, who is honest and supportive throughout years and years and this leaves us feeling cheated with the story's unrealistic ending.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting look into a distant world, Dec 29 2002
By 
S. Marino (Maryland, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
I had been reading nonfiction books for such a long time that I decided it was time for me to pick out a fiction novel. A few of my friends had read Memoirs of a Geisha a couple of years ago and they all enjoyed it.
I read the translator's note at the beginning and was so hooked I couldn't stop reading. I finished the 400+ page book in less than a week and everytime I had to put it down I couldn't wait to pick it back up.
As I read the book I felt like I was listening to a woman talking to me about her life. I felt as if she were really sitting in my living room and remembering her stories. The detail and comparisons are wonderful and the characters are all well-developed. I had no previous knowledge of geisha and was really enchanted by the new world I was uncovering. I felt like page by page I was learning more about this culture, time period and place than I could have discovered in a text book on Japan.
This easy to read book, though not short, is perfect for a light read. Definitely a great book to pick up if you're longing for a delightful story. After I had finished the book I caught myself sometimes imagining that I was a geisha in the Gion district, complete with my kimono and properly tied obi. Although not a most glorious life, this book shows how being a geisha became the life of these girls and women even if it wasn't their desire.
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Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Paperback - Jan. 26 1999)
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