Posts Tagged Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha

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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is definitely worth all of the praise that it has received since its publication in 1997. Since that date, an Oscar winning film adaptation has also been made. It is quite easy to see why this book has become so popular; the language is stunning, and the overall plot is intriguing and entertaining. The story centers around Chiyo, a Japanese girl with striking grey-blue eyes, as she grows to become one of the most famous geisha in Japan. She starts out as a normal girl with her sister, living a simple life with her family. It all changes when Mr. Tanaka notices her beauty, and buys her from her parents. Like all possible geisha, she is sold to an okiya, a place to stay while she learns the trade. Like most protagonists in stories, she becomes the enemy of one Hatsumomo, a geisha who harbors a jealousy for Chiyo and her beauty. As punishment for various conflicts with her owners, Chiyo is sent on a trip to town, where a chance encounter changes her life for the second time. She meets the Chairman, with whom she falls in love instantly. She immediately promises herself that she will do all in her power to be with him. However, this is far from any conventional love story. Conflicts are abundant, as geisha are under intense scrutiny. I loved how much the book’s plot changed, and how every guess I could have about where it was going couldn’t be more wrong.        

The book keeps you on your feet, and all the while teaches you about the complex culture of the Japanese geisha. I found myself reading this almost as a fantasy, because the culture was so new and magical to me. Memoirs of a Geisha is a work of fiction, but Arthur Golden researched the culture so that all the customs of the geisha culture are fact. I loved learning as much as you do from reading this book. The intricacies of the makeup and kimono are described so well that I can see them wonderfully. Arthur Golden has a very descriptive writing style that draws the reader in. He crafts wonderful statements that are easy to imagine: “I could no more have stopped myself from feeling that sadness than you could stop yourself from smelling an apple that has been cut open on the table in front of you” (269). This as a very apt statement, and I experience smelling apples all the time, so I could easily understand her feelings better. The same effect occurs with the line: “…Our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper” (428). I loved imagining this effect; it makes such a beautiful picture in my mind.

Memoirs of a Geisha is overall a wonderful read. The descriptive voice of Arthur Golden is ever present and entertaining. The major themes of love and persistence are sprinkled about and truly make the reader think and assess their own character. I myself like to wonder about what my choices would be if I was in Chiyo’s situation, and how they would differ. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an entertaining read filled with descriptive language and well developed characters. The protagonist’s journey is cannot be compared to any that I have read, and I like to think I have read quite a few. Overall, the story, filled with the astounding geisha culture and lovely characters, creates a truly stunning literary work of art.


Memoirs of a Geisha Book Review

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Culture Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

By Teague Thomas

                 Though he is a Tennessee native, Arthur Golden earned a Master of Arts degree in Japanese art at Columbia University, speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, and spent a summer studying at Peking University in Beijing. He takes a great interest in Japanese culture, and from his extensive research comes a wonderfully-told story about a young girl training to become a geisha in WWII era Japan. This fictional masterpiece comes from synthesized interviews Golden held with many retired geisha in order to clarify myths and keep the storyline realistic.

                The plot follows a young girl, Chiyo, whose only striking feature is her light, opaque eyes. She is taken from her small village at a young age to Kyoto to be trained in the geisha arts. Along the way she is confronted with numerous conflicts, cruel and competitive people, and an exigent world which she is forced to become a part of.

                Chiyo is brought to Kyoto in a time where Japan is between wars—Kyoto flourishes at the beginning of the story, but as the novel progresses WWII strikes Japan and destroys the geisha district. Out of the destruction of the city comes Chiyo’s opportunity to seize her life and make it her own—a welcome change in a time and place where women were not seen as intellectual individuals, but pretty things meant to entertain and serve. The story is superbly written—with a combination of breathtaking imagery and a plot line so full of twists and turns, although you may predict Chiyo’s fate, you’ll never guess how she gets there.

                The author’s writing style provides a leisurely read—simple, no-fluff description with an acceptable amount of philosophy dispersed here and there. The book, told in the first person of a young romantic, is told in with poetic thoughts and minute descriptions. Certain passages especially illustrate this balance: “Adversity is like a strong wind. I don’t mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be” (348). It is poetic enough to create an enjoyable experience for the reader, but not so complicated that one forgets what he is reading about.

                The book’s main theme, though perhaps not entirely recognizable at first, is a controversy over fate—is it predetermined by divine forces, or do the players of the world have some say in writing the script? Chiyo’s life, while not entirely tragic, is very disappointing. She is taken from her home and worked to the bone and treated terribly in a house where no one cares for her properly. Her hopes of being a geisha—the only way she could improve her life under the circumstances—are constantly dashed by cruel, jealous, and greedy people; the man she loves is oblivious and untouchable, and the few people who do care for her cannot show it. Her life story is depressing to a reader, and forces the question, can things ever get better? Can Chiyo decide to fix things or will she be stuck in a dead-beat life forever? As a reader you root for Chiyo—she is someone who you want to see succeed, which is partly why the book is so engaging.

                The narrative is surprisingly impressive—a middle-aged American-born man narrating a young adolescent geisha in Japan is not an easy match, but Golden makes the book flow smoothly and seamlessly. His book, while engaging and thrilling, also teaches an important life lesson about taking control of your fate, despite people telling you what you can’t do all your life. Memoirs of a Geisha is a truly memorable read—you will never forget or regret reading it.

                The book affected me mostly by being so different—I had never read a book with such a diverse subject matter, suspenseful plot, entertaining writing style, and a character that I cared about. I was completely engaged in this book as I read it—all 428 pages. Many people believe they can’t devote their attention to one book for so long, but I promise Memoirs of a Geisha is a quick read, and for all the right reasons. While it didn’t change my life or immediately inspire me (not many books do), it did have a profound effect on my perception of Japanese culture, and exposed me to a subject matter in history which I am now very interested in.

                This book is definitely on my must-list—and I’ve read a lot of books. It’s valuable reading for everyone and anyone—it offers exposure to history, quality writing, an appealing plot, and a book you can feel completely satisfied with after you finish it. For anyone, all ages above an 8th grade reading level, I strongly recommend a trip to the library—Memoirs of a Geisha should be required material for anyone who loves to read. I promise, by the time you turn the first page, you won’t stop turning until you’ve read it to the end.


Memoirs of a Geisha

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Jamil Bolling

Branom period 1


Memoirs of a Geisha: Book Review


The book Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden shines some light on the true meaning behind being a geisha. Golden is a American born in Tennessee who studied Japanese history in college. He spent time interviewing several prominent geisha, including Mineko Iwasaki, a geisha who is quite famous for her influence on the direction the geisha art has taken. Memoirs of a Geisha was released in 1997 and spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a fictional story told form the perspective of a young girl named Sayuri Nitta. It tells about the struggles she went through in the process of becoming a successful geisha. It takes place before and during World War ll in the city of Kyoto, Japan. Sayuri’s life is dependent on her work as a geisha, but her way of life could be in danger due to some of the choices she makes while influenced by love.

I loved the book, for it gave such rich detail into the life of the geisha. The story traced the path a geisha must take to become successful. There are vivid descriptions of the schools that young geisha must attend that helps the reader to understand the importance of respect and hard work in this culture. Some of the challenges the main character faces parallel perfectly with the stresses that we all face in our daily life. Sayuri must deal the demons within her and on the outside. The way that she accomplish this difficult task is through mistakes and lessons learned as well as hard work and self-reflection. The lessons she learns throughout the book provide an interesting comparison the way we live our lives and it raised questions within me on what I could work harder at. The main character, Sayuri, also faced the constant battle of respecting the traditions and heritage of the times that she lives in while at the same time trying to achieve happiness within herself. Her story is one of forbidden love and the struggle one faces to overcome others expectations for oneself.

I think this book is a wonderful one to read if the reader shares my interest in the traditions of other cultures. So much can be learned from this book on the not only how geisha conducted themselves, but also on the effects of World War ll on the people of Japan. The people were displaced and felt very unsafe in their own homes. They were sent to work in factories all the while they were being bombed at and many people lost their homes. The geisha way of life is truly beautiful and Golden depicts their art forms beautifully. They use hard work and determination all the time. The focus it takes to perform the dance and the tea ceremonies is amazing. Just getting dressed for a night out can take them hours. Everything has to be perfect including hair and make up. The way they walk and talk and the way they conduct themselves accounts for how the have survived so many years and how the traditions of the geisha have carried on through the generations.

There is so much to be learned about the world all around us. Golden was able to capture a piece of this and express it through this work. The true essence of being a geisha is to be an artist. I deeply advise reading this book if you, like me, really want to know about the way people live outside of our homes. I have learned through this book that even being an ocean away we share the same hurts and pains as the people around us. I feel completely enlightened about the lifestyle of the geisha and I hope you will explore it too.