I absolutely love this book and I am still surprised every time I read it that it was written by a man. I think that I have now read this book 10 times and it is still one of my favourite books that I can read again and again. The novel narrated by Nitta Sayuri, in a flashback format, as she tells of her life as one of the most celebrated geisha in Japan. In Memoirs of a Geisha we enter a completely different world where appearances are everything; a girl’s virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder; where women are trained to charm and memorize the most powerful men in Japan using only their wits, musical talents and dance; and where love is only a fantasy.
Sayuri’s life begins as Chiyo, a girl born in the poor fishing village of Yoroido, where, at nine years old, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a well-known geisha house in far away Kyoto. Separated from her family, Sayuri must learn how to survive on her own in the world. Although she is initially sold to become a maid in the okiya, her unusual blue-grey eyes intrigue the mistress of the okiya and Chiyo begins her training of becoming a geisha. The Nitta okiya is home to one of the most popular and most malicious geisha in all of Gion, Hatsumomo who is jealous of Chiyo’s unconventional beauty and who is determined to make Chiyo’s life as miserable as she possibly can. It is through the unusual eyes of Chiyo that we see the geisha district of Gion from the spectacular teahouses and theatres to the narrow back alleys and elaborate temples. We witness her transformation from Chiyo, the small girl who smells of fish from Yoroido to Sayuri, the apprentice geisha who is learning the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate hair and makeup; pouring sake to reveal just a glimpse of the sensual inner wrist; competing with jealous and malicious rivals for men’s patronage and the money that goes with it, to the mature geisha that she becomes after the outbreak of World War II.
Again, I still cannot believe that this story came from the brain of an American male. Golden’s ability to seamlessly write as a young Japanese women is amazing and surprising. This is a novel filled with brilliant characters, beautiful backdrops and a hopeless love story. The images that the eloquent writing produces are vivid and mesmerizing; the emotions are real and lifelike. It is almost like you are transported into the streets of Gion in the 1930’s and 1940’s whenever you open the book. It is a brilliant novel with flawless authenticity and beautiful lyricism as the true confessions of one of the most celebrated geisha from Japan. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to laugh, cry and thoroughly enjoy a book.