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Memoirs of a Geisha

According to Arthur Golden, then first-time author of the biography “Memoirs of a Geisha”, a geisha is an artist, trained long and hard on such subjects as etiquette, dance, walking, witty conversation and seduction. Told in a first person point of view and written as a work of fiction - after years of research including interviews from a geisha from Kyoto, Japan (Gion district) in the 1960’s and 70’s - this novel was written based on historical facts of geishas’ daily pre-WWII life.

This book offers the reader an unforgettably honest portrayal of the daily life of one particular girl, named Chiyo, daughter of an impoverished fisherman, who at the young age of nine, is sold to an ”okiya” or house of geisha in Gion – the elite geisha district of Kyoto - and the rigorous training she endures to become one of the leading geisha during the 1930’s and 40’s. Through Sayuri’s apprenticeship to become a geisha, which is her new name at the home, we vividly see the trials and tribulations of the ancient and secretive geisha community. Memoirs gradually unfolds to reveal the courage, love, daring, and hope of an intensely human - and, it turns out, surprisingly modern - woman.

Through Sayuri’s eyes, we see the exotic heart of Gion with its marvelous teahouses and theaters, narrow alleys, ornate temples and artists' streets. We witness her dedicated transformation as she learns the arduous and beautiful art of being a geisha: Traditional dance and music, donning a kimono, elaborate application of makeup, caring for her fragile coiffure, perfecting the art of seduction with companionship and Japanese tea ceremonies.

A very enjoyable read, I felt that Golden took an imaginative leap into the mind of this sensual character, making it extremely difficult to believe that this author was a male. I had a hard time putting down this book once I started reading it! Now a major motion picture, I would definitely recommend that you read the book first (or even listen to the CD!) before seeing the film.

By: AmeriSpan

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