Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha

byArthur Golden

Paperback | January 6, 1999

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In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world. For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan's most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.

We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child's unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto. She is nine years old. In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha's elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow. She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival. Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara. And Memoirs of a Geisha is a triumphant work - suspenseful, and utterly persuasive.
Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at Harvard College, where he received a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an M.A. in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. Following a summer at Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo and,...
Title:Memoirs of a GeishaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 7.99 × 5.18 × 0.95 inPublished:January 6, 1999Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:067697175x

ISBN - 13:9780676971750

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from easily one of my favorite books this is easily one of my favorite books. it's one of the first books i've read and before that , i did not like reading. i was on vacation, with nothing to do and found this. boy, did that change everything. i have read this book so many times, my best friend used to make fun of me. i just love it entirely, and i HATE first person books with immense passion. cannot recommend this enough!
Date published: 2017-10-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Would not recommend this to anyone Slow-moving plot, flat characters, and an author not culturally linked to the subject matter of the book. I forced myself to get through this.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read One of the best books i've ever read. An interesting look at the world of Geishas and what they go through.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love This is a great read. The characters were well developed and I learned a great deal about the ancient tradition and life of the Geisha in addition to WWII era Japan.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing story Destroys misconceptions about Geisha's, a must read!
Date published: 2017-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoirs Of A Geisha Thoroughly enjoyed this story. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love loved this book, re read it all the time #plumreview
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful A book written beautifully. This story is one of sadness, happiness, adventure and suspense. The descriptions are so well written, you can picture every scene as if you were a part of the story. I watched the movie before I had read the book, but as usual the book is always better.
Date published: 2017-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous An incredible story that draws the reader into every page. Reading it once isn't enough, you read it again and again and each time will pull out new aspects of the characters and circumstance. You won't be able to put it down.
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful This is a beautifully written book, heavily thumbed on my shelf.
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful This is a beautifully written book, heavily thumbed on my shelf.
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful This is a beautifully written book, heavily thumbed on my shelf.
Date published: 2017-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Astounding beautifully written and not a single moment that wasn't captivating. Beautifully written and not a single moment that wasn't captivating. By far the most brilliant novel I have read in all of my 21 years of breathing.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well Written but some ethical problems A very well written book. Easy to visualize and be carried along, and you can root for the main character, and are left wondering how she will fare and how it will all end. There's never really a lull in the story either, as it gradually builds and builds in plot. I appreciated this because I saw the movie years ago. What I do not like and found bothered me was that the author is neither Japanese, or female. I found this made it difficult to fully enjoy and made me worry about the appropriateness of the book, especially considering the breach of trust that was made in publishing this book. I do recommend it for the story, however I would highly recommend reading it through a lens that accounts for an outsider writing this story.
Date published: 2017-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful I am so late to reading and appreciating this story, but I understand what all the hype was about. This novel was beautiful, Sayuri's character was perfectly developed. The movie could never live up to my experience with this book, but I am eager to watch it. I appreciated experiencing the Japanese tradition of geisha and some culture different than my own. These types of novels are important; understanding is something the world needs more of. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read I really enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha - however, I was a little disappointed with the fact that it wasn't a real memoir (although I knew that going into it).
Date published: 2017-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful Read this just before going to Japan and I loved the imagery and comparisons the author used. It was a smooth and delightful read
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating I first read this book as a young teenager. While plenty of the nuances passed over my head, the story was still captivating enough for me to keep turning the pages. It was a treat to reread this as an adult. I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. This is a well written story - plenty of rich imagery and a soft, poetic voice from the protagonist. Couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2017-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Definitely an interesting perspective on a subject matter I knew very little about. Certainly a sad story but a worthwhile read.
Date published: 2017-04-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting, but too drawn-out This book could have benefited from being about 100 pages shorter. It also seemed to be very stereotypical. Interesting, but not enough for me to recommend it.
Date published: 2017-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing story I couldn't put down! Fantastic story about several geisha told by the main character Sayuri. I loved learning more about the culture and traditions of the geisha and 1930's japan
Date published: 2017-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well written In this book about perseverance, you will enter an extraordinary foreign world, and your curiosity about Japanese historical social structure, and the geisha culture, will be delightfully satisfied. The writing is superb. The story is compelling. You can’t go wrong with this book that is so gracefully written.
Date published: 2017-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read! This is my all time favourite book. LOVE the theme. LOVE the Characters. LOVE how it's written.
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautifully written Book The hidden world of geishas comes to life in Golden's book. The writing is a little simplistic in terms of style but in my opinion that is appropriate as the result reads much like a conversation between the protagonist later in life and the reader.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fave! I love this book, I feel like this is the Asian equivalent of Pride and Prejudice.
Date published: 2017-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable story #plumreview While reading this book I had to check back to verify it was written by a man and was his debut novel. He had written so well in the voice of a woman that the story seemed to come from the heart and mind of a woman.
Date published: 2017-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful This book captures your attention right away. It's beautifully written and it was great learning a little bit about this "hidden" culture. This book will forever remain in my library and will definitely be reread. Whatever you do, do NOT see the movie instead. It cannot even compare to the book.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful! Loved the characters and the story itself. Absolutely worth a read!
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Memoirs of a Geisha I had to read this for school so my opinion may have been skewed but it was a boring read at times. Sure, the context is compelling but I don't think I'd ever want to read it again.
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stays With You I read this book about ten years ago, while I was finishing high school. It was beautifully written, and quickly became one of my favourite book. To this day, I still have the memory of all the emotions this book made me live through: happiness, relief, terror, sadness, and every one in between. I would highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful story What starts of as a story of sadness and despair turns into something beautiful by the end. I loved following the life of the protagonist through her many trials that life handed her. It made me cry sometimes how things seemed to happen to her. It was a unique and beautiful story about love that endures through times of extreme hardship. And this book also opened me up to a world it turns out I knew nothing about before. I love how it challenged my perceptions of these women who were sometimes forced into this profession. It really taught me not to judge a book by its cover, but to see a person's story. I loved it.
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional ! The best book I have ever read. I have read it twice - before I saw the movie. Such a moving story in such a mysterious area of the life not many people have knowledge of.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from loved this I read this book a while ago and it is definitely one of my top books of all time. Would read again.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it! Super in love with this book! Read it twice, would definitely recommend!
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Favourite have read this twice and also loved the movie. fascinating culture.
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Great Book This book is really good for people who are interested in different cultures and books from different time periods. I have heard that this book is not very accurate and I'm not sure how exact it is, but it was a very entertaining read. I thought it was well written and couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Originally, I truly believed that this was an autobiography of an actual well-known geisha, so I was slightly disappointed when I discovered that it was a fiction novel. But not for long. This story is so beautifully written that my disappointment quickly dissipated, and was replaced by awe by the fact that an American male was able to enter the soul of a Japanese woman and portray her life – her dreams, hopes, fears - so seamlessly. In this book about perseverance, you will enter an extraordinary foreign world, and your curiosity about Japanese historical social structure, and the geisha culture, will be delightfully satisfied. The writing is superb. The story is compelling. You can’t go wrong with this book that is so gracefully written.
Date published: 2017-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This was a totally absorbing book. It's well written with very well developed characters. It lets you in to a completely different world.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy, Enjoyable Leisure Reading Upon finishing university and starting out in the working world, I wanted to pick up some leisurely reading of my own personal taste, for the first time after years of only reading books because I had to for school. I am glad I picked this book up to start with. Memoirs Of A Geisha is a wonderfully-written, compelling story. I couldn't put it down. I haven't seen the movie, but hear it's not nearly as enjoyable as the book.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! Read this book for an independent book study for my english class! So much symbolism, themes and material in this book!
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my faves! I have read this book multiple times and it is such a great read. If you saw the movie, ignore it and back to the book!
Date published: 2017-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just amazing One of those complex, can't-put-down books
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must read! This book has incredible history in it, matched with a beautiful story and writing style. This book will forever have a home on my bookshelf to be read again and again.
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoirs of a Geisha This is a lovely, well written book. I very much enjoyed every bit of the story and the historical aspect was very informative.
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from memoirs of a geisha What a beautiful yet sad story of a world we know nothing about.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't Wait My absolute favourite movie of all time! Can't wait to read the full book!
Date published: 2017-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautifully written Very interesting story filled with imaginative characters. Doesn't disappoint. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful This book was beautifully written and the story was captivating. While the characters are mesmerizing, the world explored by Golden was so richly detailed, that you're immediately immersed into the book. Definitely worth reading!
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another World This book was so beautifully written it's an absolute must read. I was taken away to another world and time and it was magical.
Date published: 2017-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating This book will lure you in with its incredible writing. The story is colourful and characters are well-developed. You will feel every ounce of emotion the author wishes you to feel. A must read!
Date published: 2017-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rich, Exotic, and Beautifully Written Memoirs of Geisha is such a beautiful book, filled with fantastic imagery and descriptions of pre/post WW2 Japan. Reading about the life of a geisha was fascinating, and the book is so well-written, you just get sucked into the story without even realizing it.
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Can't believe it took me so long to read this! Chiyo is taken away from her family in a fishing village of Japan and sold to become a geisha in Kyoto. She has very unique eyes which sparks interest from men and jealousy from women. The current geisha of her household does not take well to Chiyo and does what she can to ensure Chiyo doesn't become a geisha. In Chiyo's despair, she happens upon a man of high standing that treats her well and gives her a handkerchief to wipe her tears. Chiyo decides she must become a geisha to find this man again. A rival house offers to train Chiyo and she becomes Sayuri and a very well known geisha. This book offers some insight in to a world I knew nothing about and it uses very engaging characters to do so. You can instantly connect with Chiyo and how scared she is being sold to a completely different world. The bad characters are interesting as well and you can hate them pretty easily. The characters I didn't completely understand were the men. Why do men pay extravagant amounts of money to have someone pour them sake and tea? Maybe it's because I'm not a man that I don't understand it. I don't usually enjoy books with flowery descriptions of things, which this book has, but here I thought they were rather lyrical and didn't mind them. If you're looking for a book to get lost in another world, this is a great one.
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Book Read this when I was a teenager and saw the movie it was based on. Loved reading about the difference in cultures and history in Japan.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book One of my favourite books. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoirs of aGeisha What an insight into this culture. One of my favourite books.
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read Good book, very interesting read but I don't feel the need to reread it in the future
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible! This book has such an emotional story, it was so hard to put down. I loved it. It's a perfect book for young adults.
Date published: 2016-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from LOVED IT It's an amazing story, really deep and pretty accurate, don't be driven away by the fact it wasn't written by a japanese. It was heartbreaking at some moment, but it was interesting to get a taste of ancient japan.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AMAZING #plumreview This has always been my all time favorite book. its amazing!
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely amazing! This book was breathtaking and captivating. I would even go as far as to say it's changed my life. All the details and work that the author has put into this book, from the characters to the descriptions of the objects and setting, really tie the book together. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a (sort of) coming-of-age story. It's become an absolute favourite of mine, and if I had the time, I would definitely reread it.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it I watched the movie when I was younger and I recently just bought the book, and my god it's so different from the book.
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Read! This was a quick read for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. An eye opener into the world of a geisha.
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read Lovely prose, a little slow at times but ultimately a worthy read.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great book such a great book, so interesting to learn of the culture and about the life of a geisha. loved the movie as well
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from #plumreview Didn't want to put this book down. Finished it in two days. A must read!
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful book! This was a very nice, fun, easy read over my holidays. It is beautifully written!!! It introduced me to a way of life and culture that I am unfamiliar with. The characters are great and I was truly invested in them. I recommend this 100%!
Date published: 2016-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful I thoroughly loved Sayuri's beautifully tragic story and felt transported back in time and into her world.
Date published: 2015-10-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Huge book! This book was a lot larger than I was expecting, but that's a good thing. It's very well bound & made, & the story is great.
Date published: 2015-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent. Loved the writer's style and sense of humor. A must read.
Date published: 2014-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lovely glimpse into the past for these mysterious beings... I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of Sayuri again (as I read this back when it was first released). You meet a child who has little, but it is enough. But circumstances bring her to Kyoto whereby she sees into the world of the geishas, their artistry, their demanding regiments (hair, shoes, presentation, arts, etc). Love how the author allows us to peak into their culture and lives while showing how they are feeling, but also allows the outside world to seep in. Recommend.
Date published: 2013-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Blown away The book is a very easy read with many details which is hard to do without confusing the reader or letting them loose interest by all the details given. You become attached to the main character and the story does not lack anything. I loved learning new cultures and their was a lot of information that I retained from this read.
Date published: 2012-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AMAZING!
Date published: 2011-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fantastic Book Although when I chose to read this book it was far from what I normally would read, I soon fell in love with this story. It is one of my favourite books and I would highly recommend it. I was so involved with the story and the characters that I found it hard to ever put down.
Date published: 2011-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! I could not put this book down! It was a great story and it really kept my attention through the whole book. I was actually sad when it ended. I would highly recomend this book!
Date published: 2011-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Holy Memoirs! There were lots of enlightening expressions and each one, I found, left me in awe... they were so beautiful and well used. It was an intimate experience to be fully immersed in the life of Chiyo/Sayuri, but it was also a bit boring in some places... just because it dragged on a bit. I saw the movie first, so I was eager to see how closely it followed the book. There are many differences between the two, but in the end the same feelings and points were made. Thanks to the movie I was able to visualize the characters and hear their voices as I read, and thanks to the book I was able to understand the movie better. Its hard to say which is better, but I think the two go hand in hand. The experience is just not complete without the both of them working together to tell you the story of Nitta Sayuri.
Date published: 2010-03-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moving and enthralling... addictive! This has got to be one of my favourite books, and that list is a pretty short one. I read this book a few years ago, but could not put it down. This is one of the few books that I have read where the movie wasn't disappointing. In fact, I felt that the movie really kept to the story. It was so well-written, so richly detailed, I felt as if I were in Japan, watching this story being played out. Very few books have this effect on me. It was just beautifully written and the story is very well-told.
Date published: 2009-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Elegant, foreign and intriguing. I'm constantly classing this book as historical fiction and it always blows me away when I correct myself. The depth and complexity of tradition portrayed in this book gives it a sense of being something quite old when in actual fact it takes place not that long ago. The story telling quality of the novel is rhythmic and simply enchanting. It's impossible to put down. The teahouses, cobbled streets and silk kimonos are easy to envision. The language is a perfect blend of modern and classic. The pain and longing of the main character, Sayuri, is easily felt and understood. A phenomenal piece of literature. A must read for anyone wishing to experience another culture.
Date published: 2009-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a wonderful novel I was glued to this book from the first page; I could not put it down. Even though the main character was fictional, I found the Geisha culture and life in Gion to be absolutely fascinating. It was truly a whole different world inside of Japan. I can’t wait to see what Arthur Golden does for an encore. I will recommend this book to everyone.
Date published: 2009-08-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Didn't live up the hype I've been wanting to read this book for some time now. I think I just had too high expectations and it kind of fell flat. I think there were some incredible stories told, and the main character made a very strong impact on me. I also enjoyed learning more about Geisha and the cultural aspects the book provided. I did find that it moved along a little slowly near the ending. But still a decent read by far!
Date published: 2009-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Something everyone can read. I totally loved it :) It was well written, and at times had my eyes glued for hours! Total epic-ness x)
Date published: 2009-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Good book
Date published: 2009-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favourites Enchanting and beautifully written tale portraying the resourcefulness and resilience of women, regardless of what part of the globe they are from or how they live out their destiny.
Date published: 2008-11-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a wonderful read You step back into time, and definately learn a lot of history. Most importantly though, this book was about true romance.
Date published: 2008-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even better than the movie! A MUST read! Ten times better than the movie, the book has amazing description that practically takes you there. It explains so much more about the life of a Geisha than the movie ever could. I highly recommend reading this before seeing the movie, it makes you understand certain details about a geisha's attire and demeanor that the movie never explores. Wonderful book!
Date published: 2008-09-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Memoirs of a Geisha Previously published September 26, 2007 at: As usual, it would seem I'm in a minority with this romantic tale of Chiyo-become-Sayuri, the peasant girl who became geisha. Set amid the backdrop of Depression Era and World War II Japan, the story takes you from Chiyo's fishing village, peasant beginnings to the opulent, harsh and at the same time frivolous world of Gion, where Chiyo transforms into a highly trained geisha known as Sayuri, and from there into the bitterly harsh realities of post-war Japan where she eeks out an existence as a dyer for a former, famed kimono maker. While I wanted to become enveloped in this artful, contrived world of the geisha, as I was in the film, I found myself distanced. Golden's insights of things Japanese is masterful, but I feel his insights of things feminine lacking. This became uncomfortably clear during the section dealing with Sayuri's virginity sale, and how she reacts to her successful buyer. For a young girl without sexual knowledge she is remarkably cool, to the point the entire section becomes dispassionate and a non-event. Even prior to that when the infamous Baron wishes to see what he's bidding for and secrets her away to undress her, the terror of the moment is utterly lost. Indeed the only terror Sayuri feels, and even then it's not sexual, is much later on, after she's become a very well-known and experienced geisha, and attempts to thwart a would-be patron's bid for her. Her shame, and her terror, is not for the act of sex, but rather that the Chairman, her long-time love, discovers her rather than her intended victim. Perhaps this distancing is a cultural difference. Perhaps not. As such I was left feeling the author's credibility lacked. There are other instances of emotional distance. While Chiyo, and then Sayuri, mourns the loss of her mother, it is lost on the reader because there has been little by way of relationship development, and so Chiyo's mourning becomes nothing more than whining. Again, this occurs in the relationship between Chiyo and her father. She professes to miss him, and yet he has never treated her with kindness. And the relationship between Chiyo and her sister, and her need to find her sister, looses emotional impact because there has been little in the way of development of this relationship. We are expected, as a reader, to simply accept there is a bond. It doesn't work. And so not only Chiyo/Sayuri, but the entire tone of the novel, comes off as cool, without passion, and certainly it would appear from the words Golden chooses he very much wishes the reader to feel passionately. As it is, I would rate Memoirs of a Geisha as light summer reading, and entirely forgettable.
Date published: 2008-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful read This book captivated me...and the writing was amazing. I felt like I was really there, reading this story. The movie was also excellent. This book covers a great amount of history, and really gives you a look into a different culture. This is something I've read again and again, and I highly recommend it to fiction lovers.
Date published: 2008-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Read! I absolutely love this book. It was so descriptive that, when it came time for me to watch the movie, I had already imagined what everything would look like. To be honest, the movie was a real let-down because the book was so amazing with its words. The long wait to read this - since grade 11 English class to third year of Univ. - was definitely worth it! Two thumbs WAY up!
Date published: 2008-07-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not bad The content is all there but the way it is written made it hard to get through...The movie was a true following of the book...It's a romance that lasts a lifetime.
Date published: 2008-07-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Exciting I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden after watching the movie, and it was still very exciting. This is because the novel has more events that happen, it’s more detailed, and it goes past the movie's ending. I think the movie makes Nobu seem like a bad person, but I really liked him in the novel. This novel is about a geisha, Sayuri, the difficulties she faces as a geisha and the consequences of falling in love. I highly recommend this unique novel to everyone over the age of sixteen.
Date published: 2008-05-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from interesting this book was very interesting. It tells the story of a little girl who is forced to become a geisha (or she will become a maid if she refuses to become a geisha). overall the book was a pretty good read.
Date published: 2008-04-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Learned about a hidden world but literature this isn't Golden's book is interesting and at times entertaining. I learned a great deal about a hidden world of Japanese culture. But the language is simple and the writing structure rather dull.
Date published: 2008-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic!! This is my favorite book of all time. I saw the movie first and then decided to read the book. After experiencing them both, I decided I liked the book much better. You can appreciate the fantastic description of everything you see in the movie, but on a bigger scale. Highly recommend!!
Date published: 2008-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind capturing!!! Arthur Golden takes you into the past and leads you to believe that even modern day Life may still be this way for a Geisha in Japan...could not put the book was mind capturing!!!
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much better than the movie! Golden's book is so much better than the movie. I read it a couple of years ago and fell in love with it.
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So much better than the movie I read this book before watching the theatrical version of it. I didn't even make it half way through the movie before turning it off. The book puts so much beauty into the storyline. Arthur Golden has a magical way with words. The movie did not even come close to doing justice for this book. Must read!
Date published: 2008-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intriguing Could not put it down. Intriguing.
Date published: 2007-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sensational! I read this book years before the movie was out. Superb! In fact, much better than the movie. The descriptions throughout the book leave your imagination running wild. I have read this more then once and each time I visualize something new. There is a sense of beauty and sensuality to it without being over the top. It tugs at your heart making you question people’s behavior .Shows how things were so much different compared to what we know now.
Date published: 2007-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great story A remarkable and breathtaking novel, the author unlocks the complex world of rituals with insight, grace and intelligence. It is beautifully written and immensely believable.One can easily enter this exotic world where appearances are so important. The story spans a lifetime, a girl is sold into slavery at a very young age by her father and is taken away from her village only to be groomed into beguiling the most powerful men. This story is seen through the eyes of the main character as she struggles to become and to be one of the most sought geisha in Gion . This part fairy tale and part historical novel drew me in from the very first page. I wonder how close the movie came in describing this world without falling into too much Americanism, well maybe I will have to watch the DVD one day and judge for myself.
Date published: 2007-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Novel. I must admit, I first picked up the book simply because I have a fascination with Japan and it's culture, but once I started to read the novel, I knew that I didn't pick it up by mistake. The story of small Chiyo is a heart-wrenching tale of pre WWII Japan. However as the reader sees this little girl grow to become one, if not the, of most beautiful girls in all of Japan. The inspirational story leds to a beautiful ending that you know Chiyo/Sayuri deserves.
Date published: 2007-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting The most riveting book I've read in a couple of years. The feelings and impressions were so well painted, I could feel and see all (note: I have not seen the movie). There was also plenty of intrigue and surprises to make the story line in itself captivating. I recomend this book to anyone and will surely pick it up again in the years to come... if not next month already.
Date published: 2006-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Favourite Book I absolutely loved this book. It was beautifully written, I never wanted it to end. I was excited to hear about the movie but was EXTREMELY dissappointed - it was awful!
Date published: 2006-08-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from astonishing I thought this book was a good reading book, and was impressed very much how it captured the life of a geisha, and how she interwines with the culture of Japan. I would like to read more books like these, and find it very interesting to learn more about the Japaneese culture. I am hoping to travel to Japan someday to see how the geisha relates to the Japaneese society.
Date published: 2006-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story I really liked this book and had a hard time putting it down. It gives a great sense of the Geisha culture (though I keep a certain reserve, after all it is written by a NORTH AMERICAN MAN!!!) It's a really beautiful story and actually quite liked that the main character tried constantly to strive for what she wanted (as opposed to what everyone else wanted from her). However, the end was disappointing. A little too happy-ending for my taste.
Date published: 2006-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! If you've seen the movie, its no doubt that you have to read the book. While the movie was good, it didnt do the book justice. An absolute must read!
Date published: 2006-07-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read Beautiful, lucid language, and a real sense of authenticity behind the voice of the narrator. I don't think there was one moment while reading this book that I could honestly say it wasn't the actual memoirs of a geisha, rather than an imaginary woman written by a man. The narrator isn't perfect, she is realistic, and the novel is all the better for it. Truly an accomplishment -- the entire book feels like a long sweeping story told to you by a close friend.
Date published: 2006-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from better than the movie I have read this book at least five times, and I love it better every time. I picked up my first copy while living in japan near the Gion district, and i carry it wherever i go.
Date published: 2006-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I really enjoyed learning about geisha and the culture in Japan. The book is really well written, making you want to just keep reading. The story itself is fascinating as it takes you on a geisha's life journey, through the hardships and the sacrifices of such a lifestyle. It's about hope and love for a geisha. The book is quite long, but if you enjoy a good read, I would recommend this book to you.
Date published: 2006-06-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Keeps you on the edge of you seat This book held you wondering to the very last page. It made you see how a life of a young girl can turn in the blink of an eye forever. There was true love of a famliy in the beginning and true love at the end. For the rest of the book it was a matter of staying alive at the highest level with a price - a person's happiness. This book has a lot of emotion to it and I could not put it done. I was finished in a matter of days.
Date published: 2006-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I really couldn't put this book down! I was completely absorbed in the story and in awe of this character as told from the perspective of a Geisha - a subject matter I knew little about.
Date published: 2006-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful One of those books that you have to buy so you can read it over and over. A beautiful story and a real insight into the life of a geisha.
Date published: 2006-06-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Crazy Good!!! I loved this book!!! You should definitly read it!!!
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great read Better than the movie. A must to read. Very informative about the culture.
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A IDAI (NA) READ BOOK After visiting Japan for a month last year this book meant so much more for me to read, the life and heardship of becoming a Geisha are really not written in any book or novel. I'm sure glad I had the opportunity to read Arthur Goldens book . I came away with a closer understanding of the Japanese woman and the life they led way back when (or even today in some cases). ARIGATO !!
Date published: 2006-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enchanting Cinderella Type Story I love this book, (the original), it’s a lot better than the movie, or movie-tie in. Golden is a fabulous author who is able to capture feeling and emotion. It allows the reader to feel hope and I really enjoyed the cultural emphasis that the author incorporates into the story.
Date published: 2006-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. The story takes you captive and paints one of the most magical of tales of love, suspense and drama. A most beautiful read that you will be unable to put down.
Date published: 2006-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Generally Enjoyable I enjoyed this book on a number of levels. There were learning opportunities [for example, the usage of terms such as 'danna'.] Some of the mischievous feats were good for a chuckle, while other parts were simply heartbreaking. There were times when I really disliked Sayuri, but that only made the story more interesting. All in all, I found it enjoyable, but I wouldn't recommend it if you dislike long, detailed literature.
Date published: 2006-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a young girl's sorrow, challenges and success Wonderfully written story of a young woman's journey through life as a geisha. Excellent use of detail pertaining to Japanese culture and the Depression. Suspense lies in the heart of the young geisha and her challenge to overcome numerous life space obstacles. Overall, an excellent story with a cultural awareness of a timeline of events making it difficult to put down!
Date published: 2006-02-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not that great This book wasn't as great as I had heard. It was interesting at times, and sweet, but the story didn't grab me, and I thought the ending was lousy. I hate it when books go into great detail for the first 495 pages, then try to quickly summarize everything and end the story in the last 5.
Date published: 2006-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautifully written book. To all those who have seen the motion picture or would like to, please read the book! The movie simply does not do it justice. Arthur Golden tells the story of a geisha in such a beautiful way. Nothing I say will be able to describe the passion and thrill I felt while reading this book.
Date published: 2006-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spectacular, Magnificent, Amazing Memoirs of a Geisha is a wonderful novel. A great book to read and the movie is great to watch. It's such a great book and such a page turner. It's the kind of novel you don't want to put down I give it 5 stars 2 thumbs up watever its just great. A great love story. Read It You Wont Regret It!
Date published: 2006-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Entertaining and transforming! Childishly elegant, culturally stimulating, magificently narrated.
Date published: 2006-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing!!! This book it's a must read!!!
Date published: 2006-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Standard Fare for Light Reading This novel reaffirmed my general policy on fiction, if it's hyped by mass media as a book to read it is tailored to that section of society, in that this novel is designed to be readily consumed. Pretty standard in its content, nothing in the novel too thought provoking, and it isn't seeking to change your mind about social fabrics, or the lifestyle of a geisha. Just remember while reading Memoirs it is a piece of historical fiction, our discomfort with the lifestyle of the geisha is the result of our 21st century ideas and should not be subjected on individuals who by their own society's standards lived a unique and honorable life.
Date published: 2005-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Memoirs I was very impressd by the great detail and beautiful language that Arthur Golden uses in Memoirs of A Geisha. The wit and great detail of the novel make for an engrossing read, however, I found the ending dissapointing. A happy ending is sprung onto the reader and fits akwardly with the rest of the story. I believe the novel lost a certian edge when everything ended so perfectly, with a new westren life in New York for the main characer and her beloved husband, and their son. It left a bad aftertaste of hollywood. Despite this though, Memoirs of a Geisha remains a must-read. The novel is simply captivating.
Date published: 2005-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing one of the best books i've ever read.
Date published: 2005-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the BEST book If you're looking for a novel that has love, suspense, drama and a sense of realism, this is the book for you. I was totally pleased with this book.
Date published: 2005-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Am I memory to you? This novel made me re-think my life and I grew very close to its protagonist. Golden's magical words painted the oriental world of a geisha every chapter. It has inspired me to look for books out of my ordinary bounderies and really explore different literature. I could not put the book down. Now that the movie is out, I am going to see it right away!
Date published: 2005-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favourite book Memoirs of a Geisha is an absolutely beautiful novel. Simple, interesting, easy to read and just the greatest story.
Date published: 2005-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I cried I feel in love with this story. I'm only 14 and still, this book made me cry, after the harry potter series, this book is one i can always look forward to. Can't wait until the movie comes out!!!
Date published: 2005-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In Awe This has to be one of the best books i've read so far and i've read a lot. Golden gives such an insightful look into the life of a Geisha that at the end of the book u feel as if you ARE part of that lifestyle and u became a geisha or atleast her customers. Unbelievably written and pure genius. You will be sad, angry, happy, excited, bittered, moved all in the first few chapters. What more can a reader ask for? So if you have some time to spare or you're interested in looking at life in a whole new prespective, PLEASE give this book a chance! Bravo!
Date published: 2005-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from / i was never really a big fan of reading. but this novel had changed my opinion and views on books. it's amazing, and i finished it in 3 days. I recommend it to all you other readers out there.
Date published: 2005-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring! What a wonderful way to expose yourself to the Geisha culture. I found Sayuri to be an inspiring character who overcame many obstacles in her life. Definitely a quick read. My only wish would be that her life be elaborated on in the end.
Date published: 2005-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant and stylish I am not a lover of literature . My sister gave me this book for Christmas and I waited until a vacation to begin reading it. I loved it! Easy to read, easy to get into, and a shame when it's over. I was really disappointed when I turned the last page. I had really gotten to like the character and the life that she had lived. I wanted more from's amazing that it is a work of fiction. The author really pulls you in. I really recommend this book. You will love it.
Date published: 2005-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Daisuki desu!!! (I loved it) This is one of those books that just kept me turning the pages (even though I should have been studying for my exams). This just moved me a lot. I felt like I was right there with Sayuri, living the life of a Gion geisha right with her...wanting to bang Hatsumomo in the head with the frying pan a time or two at least. She was perfetly wretched...a character you love to hate, though I did feel sorry for her a little with what actually happened to her. The characterization of Sayuri is also greatly powerful (as is that of most of the characters in this novel). Another reason I loved this book so is that I've been to Japan and have a strong interest in this country's culture and history. I recommend this book to anyone... well, anyone who is willing to be trapped in the world of that book for a while wont be able to put it down.
Date published: 2005-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Unforgettable Read! This novel is incredibly well written. Arthur Golden writes with such a strong passion, and it shines through his words. I'm a high school student, and I used this book for an independent study in english. I went 6 minutes over the time alotted just because there was so much ground to cover, and I didn't want to skip any of it. The storyline is intoxicating, and I had to force myself to put the book down. The character descriptions are wonderful, and their personalities so real. Sayuri is enchanting, and I admire her cleverness. And Hatsumomo's vile qualities make you truly angry inside. I loved this book, and would highly reccomend this flawless piece of literature.
Date published: 2004-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent! this is probably one of the best books i have ever read. reading about the geisha culture was fascinating...and golden wrote about it with flair and beautifully...i'm telling it!
Date published: 2004-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful! I've always been interested in geishas and I thought this book captured the stylized delicacy and artistic integrity they [geishas] have come to represent for me. Very romantic story despite its often times harsh reality.
Date published: 2003-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Colourful, memorable, beautiful I found this book incredibly hard to put down. The characters are amazingly lifelike. The author fully provokes emotion with every line from begining to end. This is definitely a book that I plan to read again (which I NEVER do).
Date published: 2003-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I agree, a very Memorable Memoir This book was one of those books that I just couldn't put down. I had to stay in all day on the weekend just so I could finish it. Yes, I know that sounds familiar, but this book was different. I could just imagine what and where Sayuri was the whole time. I almost felt like I was there, witnessing the whole thing. This book was unforgettable, and I recommend it to anyone who is willing to cuddle up in a chair and just read it. It will be all worth while.
Date published: 2003-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Descriptively beautiful I loved this book. I usually take a long time to finish a book, but I could not put this one down until I finished it. I recommend this book to anyone with any degree of an interest in japanese culture. For those without, it is a fantastic story on its own merit. This is a descriptively beautiful book that makes the reader never want to stop reading. I borrowed a copy and immediately went and got my own copy. I will read it again.
Date published: 2003-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read! This is a great book! I loved it! I read for leisure and normally it takes me a while to finish a book because I read it only here and there. This book I read in a very short period of time. It is an easy read and it is very interesting. From a casual reader who likes to read only good books...I recommend this one 100%.
Date published: 2002-12-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was.... okay .. Basically, I read this book for a book report, and this book was quite interesting in the beginning because of the different changes in setting. However, as I reached the middle of the book, I was trying to keep my eyes open to finish it because it was 'so' boring. I'm not the kind of person that likes history much so I guess that's why it was boring for me. But then again, after you read that the author is actually an art specialist, it figures how the landscapes and kimonos are all described in such a detailed way. The ending, was something I hadn't expected, but what really made me wonder was how old the Chairman really was. Well anyways, have fun and good luck on the book if your going to read it.
Date published: 2002-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from beautifully written the language of this book is extremely lyrical and expressive. the story is very informative, yet haunting. i couldn't put down this book after starting it. i actually had to force myself to put it away for it was interfering with my schooling (exams weren't that long off at the time). i have to admit, the story does slow down significantly after the climax. it's still a great read.
Date published: 2002-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprise Ending This book leads you to believe it is based on the life of one young woman into her adult life and through the life of a geisha....while I read, I was filled with shock over such a way of life, and how this culture was so different. As I got further into the book, I couldn't put it down, I had to know what was going to happen next. What a shock when I reached the end to find that it was a ficticious character, based around facts of the life of a Geisha. None the less, I would recommend reading this book...not a dull moment in it.
Date published: 2002-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lots of details! The book is filled with disturbing yet interesting details about geisha life. Several twists in the storyline churned my stomach and kept me reading till the end hoping things would work out for the heroine.
Date published: 2002-05-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Much Ado About Nothing Flat, uni-dimensional, trite and boring. For a novel which garners such high praise from so many quarters, I was dismayed by the characters' utter lack of development.
Date published: 2001-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoirs of a Geisha I enjoyed this book to the point I could not wait read the next page and read the book in one sitting. When I finished I felt it was a learning experience of a different culture and what Sayuri endured to survive in those times. Mr. Golden wrote so well expressing Sayuri feelings that I felt it was Sayuri speaking to you and could picture myself there. He gave Sayuri respect in those trying times. Well written and a must read. I have gave copies to friends and had to buy another copy for myself.
Date published: 2001-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The world through the eyes of the Geisha An incredible book. I was spellbound from the start. Golden brings the reader into the mysterious world of the Geisha. Full of surprises. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Japanese culture or for anyone who wants to escape into a new world.
Date published: 2001-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Hit..... With such a wonderful book written so exquisitely, how could anybody not fall in love with it? A story of loss, longing and hopes! A must read!
Date published: 2001-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poetic. I kept forgetting that it was written by a man, a man who was able to tap into a very feminine and traditional psyche. Not only is this the story of a true heroine, but it is one of the best pieces of literature I have seen in a long time. It's a beautifully written story that takes you back to a disappearing, if not extinct, culture. A rare book.
Date published: 2001-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoir of a Geisha This fantastic book was mind-absorbing from the front cover of the book to the very end! It was as though I was listening to a story being told by Sayuri herself.
Date published: 2001-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from There's just something about it... Normally I'm not one to really look at the way the book is written but this is beautifully done. Author Golden has managed to allow the reader to believe that they are sitting face to face to Sayuri. At first I didn't realize that this was completely fictional and even when I did I kept forgetting that this wasn't real. The book can't be explained it has to be read and enjoyed.
Date published: 2001-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoirs of a Geisha Excellent reading! Arthur Golden takes his readers into 'the flower and willow world' of Japan in the 1930's. Historically accurate, Golden has made this novel into a gentle, delightful story that neither misrepresents nor degrades the geisha profession. As a sociology student, I have researched Geisha extensively, and have found Golden to be extremely accurate and more importantly, convincing in his tale about Nitta Sayuri. One could easily believe the events actually took place!Nitta Sayuri, a young girl sold to a geisha house in the 1930's, tells vividly of her experiences as a young maiko (apprentice geisha), and finally of how she became a geisha. So well written, Golden seems to transport his readers into a world very few westerners understand. Presented in the first person, it amazes me how Golden is able to tell such an amazingly concise story about a time he never lived in, a world he knew very little about before writing the book (as he indicates in a recent interview), a culture so greatly misunderstood, all while presenting this from a woman's unique perspective.This is an excellent book for both women as well as men. Be warned, however, you may not be able to put it down!
Date published: 2001-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A memoir The geisha Sayuri, a highly respected women in Japanese culture with a very long and intricate story to her name. Yet, Arthur Golden can create her deepest feelings and expressions in words. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese culture and history or anyone interested in the welfare of women in the past.
Date published: 2001-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Awesome Work of Fiction You'll gain so much insight to the Japanese culture when you read this book. Before I read this book, I wasn't sure what a geisha actually did. The author writes beautifully as a woman. You'll feel for the main character and you'll understand what she had to go through to be one of the most popular and respected geisha in Japan. You won't be able to put it down.
Date published: 2001-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting How does one put into words an excellent book like this one is. This is truly one of the best books that i have read. From his descriptions of scenery right down to the clothing worn by geishas, this book held my interest. In fact i was disappointed when it was over.
Date published: 2001-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pass the Sake, Please I wonderfully gripping story, I couldn't put it down. From the beginning of the story, you are caught by the writers words and the pictures those words create. The setting of Japan during the depression and into the second World War are as interesting and well written as the story of the geisha herself. A must read!
Date published: 2001-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An American Man Wrote This? While I do not profess to know a great deal about Japanese culture, I know enough. The prose in this novel is beautifully written and is true to many important facets of life in Japan. The importance of nature, the hierarchical society, and the traditional attitudes toward women are all accurately reflected in this story. The information about the lives of geisha alone is reason enough to read this book. Moreover, Golden gradually draws you in to the world of Sayuri as she learns the traditions and trials of life in the Gion district of Kyoto. After the conflict with the wonderfully wicked Hatsumomo is resolved, the novel seems to drag its way to a fairy-tale conclusion. However, this is a tremendous read for anyone who is even remotely interested in the world of the geisha. Arthur Golden has done a wonderful job of conveying not only a tale from a different culture, but the point of view of a sympathetic female character.
Date published: 2001-01-19

Read from the Book

Chapter OneSuppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, "That afternoon when I met so-and-so . . . was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon." I expect you might put down your teacup and say, "Well, now, which was it? Was it the best or the worst? Because it can't possibly have been both!" Ordinarily I'd have to laugh at myself and agree with you. But the truth is that the afternoon when I met Mr. Tanaka Ichiro really was the best and the worst of my life. He seemed so fascinating to me, even the fish smell on his hands was a kind of perfume. If I had never known him, I'm sure I would not have become a geisha. I wasn't born and raised to be a Kyoto geisha. I wasn't even born in Kyoto. I'm a fisherman's daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan. In all my life I've never told more than a handful of people anything at all about Yoroido, or about the house in which I grew up, or about my mother and father, or my older sister — and certainly not about how I became a geisha, or what it was like to be one. Most people would much rather carry on with their fantasies that my mother and grandmother were geisha, and that I began my training in dance when I was weaned from the breast, and so on. As a matter of fact, one day many years ago I was pouring a cup of sake for a man who happened to mention that he had been in Yoroido only the previous week. Well, I felt as a bird must feel when it has flown across the ocean and comes upon a creature that knows its nest. I was so shocked I couldn't stop myself from saying: "Yoroido! Why, that's where I grew up!" This poor man! His face went through the most remarkable series of changes. He tried his best to smile, though it didn't come out well because he couldn't get the look of shock off his face. "Yoroido?" he said. "You can't mean it." I long ago developed a very practiced smile, which I call my "Noh smile" because it resembles a Noh mask whose features are frozen. Its advantage is that men can interpret it however they want; you can imagine how often I've relied on it. I decided I'd better use it just then, and of course it worked. He let out all his breath and tossed down the cup of sake I'd poured for him before giving an enormous laugh I'm sure was prompted more by relief than anything else. "The very idea!" he said, with another big laugh. "You, growing up in a dump like Yoroido. That's like making tea in a bucket!" And when he'd laughed again, he said to me, "That's why you're so much fun, Sayuri-san. Sometimes you almost make me believe your little jokes are real." I don't much like thinking of myself as a cup of tea made in a bucket, but I suppose in a way it must be true. After all, I did grow up in Yoroido, and no one would suggest it's a glamorous spot. Hardly anyone ever visits it. As for the people who live there, they never have occasion to leave. You're probably wondering how I came to leave it myself. That's where my story begins. * * * In our little fishing village of Yoroido, I lived in what I called a "tipsy house." It stood near a cliff where the wind off the ocean was always blowing. As a child it seemed to me as if the ocean had caught a terrible cold, because it was always wheezing and there would be spells when it let out a huge sneeze — which is to say there was a burst of wind with a tremendous spray. I decided our tiny house must have been offended by the ocean sneezing in its face from time to time, and took to leaning back because it wanted to get out of the way. Probably it would have collapsed if my father hadn't cut a timber from a wrecked fishing boat to prop up the eaves, which made the house look like a tipsy old man leaning on his crutch. Inside this tipsy house I lived something of a lopsided life. Because from my earliest years I was very much like my mother, and hardly at all like my father or older sister. My mother said it was because we were made just the same, she and I — and it was true — we both had the same peculiar eyes of a sort you almost never see in Japan. Instead of being dark brown like everyone else's, my mother's eyes were a translucent gray, and mine are just the same. When I was very young, I told my mother I thought someone had poked a hole in her eyes and all the ink had drained out, which she thought very funny. The fortune-tellers said her eyes were so pale because of too much water in her personality, so much that the other four elements were hardly present at all — and this, they explained, was why her features matched so poorly. People in the village often said she ought to have been extremely attractive, because her parents had been. Well, a peach has a lovely taste and so does a mushroom, but you can't put the two together; this was the terrible trick nature had played on her. She had her mother's pouty mouth but her father's angular jaw, which gave the impression of a delicate picture with much too heavy a frame. And her lovely gray eyes were surrounded by thick lashes that must have been striking on her father, but in her case only made her look startled. My mother always said she'd married my father because she had too much water in her personality and he had too much wood in his. People who knew my father understood right away what she was talking about. Water flows from place to place quickly and always finds a crack to spill through. Wood, on the other hand, holds fast to the earth. In my father's case this was a good thing, for he was a fisherman, and a man with wood in his personality is at ease on the sea. In fact, my father was more at ease on the sea than anywhere else, and never left it far behind him. He smelled like the sea even after he had bathed. When he wasn't fishing, he sat on the floor in our dark front room mending a fishing net. And if a fishing net had been a sleeping creature, he wouldn't even have awakened it, at the speed he worked. He did everything this slowly. Even when he summoned a look of concentration, you could run outside and drain the bath in the time it took him to rearrange his features. His face was very heavily creased, and into each crease he had tucked some worry or other, so that it wasn't really his own face any longer, but more like a tree that had nests of birds in all the branches. He had to struggle constantly to manage it and always looked worn out from the effort. When I was six or seven, I learned something about my father I'd never known. One day I asked him, "Daddy, why are you so old?" He hoisted up his eyebrows at this, so that they formed little sagging umbrellas over his eyes. And he let out a long breath, and shook his head and said, "I don't know." When I turned to my mother, she gave me a look meaning she would answer the question for me another time. The following day without saying a word, she walked me down the hill toward the village and turned at a path into a graveyard in the woods. She led me to three graves in the corner, with three white marker posts much taller than I was. They had stern-looking black characters written top to bottom on them, but I hadn't attended the school in our little village long enough to know where one ended and the next began. My mother pointed to them and said, "Natsu, wife of Sakamoto Minoru." Sakamoto Minoru was the name of my father. "Died age twenty-four, in the nineteenth year of Meiji." Then she pointed to the next one: "Jinichiro, son of Sakamoto Minoru, died age six, in the nineteenth year of Meiji," and to the next one, which was identical except for the name, Masao, and the age, which was three. It took me a while to understand that my father had been married before, a long time ago, and that his whole family had died. I went back to those graves not long afterward and found as I stood there that sadness was a very heavy thing. My body weighed twice what it had only a moment earlier, as if those graves were pulling me down toward them. * * * With all this water and all this wood, the two of them ought to have made a good balance and produced children with the proper arrangement of elements. I'm sure it was a surprise to them that they ended up with one of each. For it wasn't just that I resembled my mother and had even inherited her unusual eyes; my sister, Satsu, was as much like my father as anyone could be. Satsu was six years older than me, and of course, being older, she could do things I couldn't do. But Satsu had a remarkable quality of doing everything in a way that seemed like a complete accident. For example, if you asked her to pour a bowl of soup from a pot on the stove, she would get the job done, but in a way that looked like she'd spilled it into the bowl just by luck. One time she even cut herself with a fish, and I don't mean with a knife she was using to clean a fish. She was carrying a fish wrapped in paper up the hill from the village when it slid out and fell against her leg in such a way as to cut her with one of its fins. Our parents might have had other children besides Satsu and me, particularly since my father hoped for a boy to fish with him. But when I was seven my mother grew terribly ill with what was probably bone cancer, though at the time I had no idea what was wrong. Her only escape from discomfort was to sleep, which she began to do the way a cat does — which is to say, more or less constantly. As the months passed she slept most of the time, and soon began to groan whenever she was awake. I knew something in her was changing quickly, but because of so much water in her personality, this didn't seem worrisome to me. Sometimes she grew thin in a matter of months but grew strong again just as quickly. But by the time I was nine, the bones in her face had begun to protrude, and she never gained weight again afterward. I didn't realize the water was draining out of her because of her illness. Just as seaweed is naturally soggy, you see, but turns brittle as it dries, my mother was giving up more and more of her essence. Then one afternoon I was sitting on the pitted floor of our dark front room, singing to a cricket I'd found that morning, when a voice called out at the door: "Oi! Open up! It's Dr. Miura!" Dr. Miura came to our fishing village once a week, and had made a point of walking up the hill to check on my mother ever since her illness had begun. My father was at home that day because a terrible storm was coming. He sat in his usual spot on the floor, with his two big spiderlike hands tangled up in a fishing net. But he took a moment to point his eyes at me and raise one of his fingers. This meant he wanted me to answer the door. Dr. Miura was a very important man — or so we believed in our village. He had studied in Tokyo and reportedly knew more Chinese characters than anyone. He was far too proud to notice a creature like me. When I opened the door for him, he slipped out of his shoes and stepped right past me into the house. "Why, Sakamoto-san," he said to my father, "I wish I had your life, out on the sea fishing all day. How glorious! And then on rough days you take a rest. I see your wife is still asleep," he went on. "What a pity. I thought I might examine her." "Oh?" said my father. "I won't be around next week, you know. Perhaps you might wake her for me?" My father took a while to untangle his hands from the net, but at last he stood. "Chiyo-chan," he said to me, "get the doctor a cup of tea." My name back then was Chiyo. I wouldn't be known by my geisha name, Sayuri, until years later. My father and the doctor went into the other room, where my mother lay sleeping. I tried to listen at the door, but I could hear only my mother groaning, and nothing of what they said. I occupied myself with making tea, and soon the doctor came back out rubbing his hands together and looking very stern. My father came to join him, and they sat together at the table in the center of the room. "The time has come to say something to you, Sakamoto-san," Dr. Miura began. "You need to have a talk with one of the women in the village. Mrs. Sugi, perhaps. Ask her to make a nice new robe for your wife." "I haven't the money, Doctor," my father said. "We've all grown poorer lately. I understand what you're saying. But you owe it to your wife. She shouldn't die in that tattered robe she's wearing." "So she's going to die soon?" "A few more weeks, perhaps. She's in terrible pain. Death will release her." After this, I couldn't hear their voices any longer; for in my ears I heard a sound like a bird's wings flapping in panic. Perhaps it was my heart, I don't know. But if you've ever seen a bird trapped inside the great hall of a temple, looking for some way out, well, that was how my mind was reacting. It had never occurred to me that my mother wouldn't simply go on being sick. I won't say I'd never wondered what might happen if she should die; I did wonder about it, in the same way I wondered what might happen if our house were swallowed up in an earthquake. There could hardly be life after such an event. "I thought I would die first," my father was saying. "You're an old man, Sakamoto-san. But your health is good. You might have four or five years. I'll leave you some more of those pills for your wife. You can give them to her two at a time, if you need to." They talked about the pills a bit longer, and then Dr. Miura left. My father went on sitting for a long while in silence, with his back to me. He wore no shirt but only his loose-fitting skin; the more I looked at him, the more he began to seem like just a curious collection of shapes and textures. His spine was a path of knobs. His head, with its discolored splotches, might have been a bruised fruit. His arms were sticks wrapped in old leather, dangling from two bumps. If my mother died, how could I go on living in the house with him? I didn't want to be away from him; but whether he was there or not, the house would be just as empty when my mother had left it. At last my father said my name in a whisper. I went and knelt beside him. "Something very important," he said. His face was so much heavier than usual, with his eyes rolling around almost as though he'd lost control of them. I thought he was struggling to tell me my mother would die soon, but all he said was: "Go down to the village. Bring back some incense for the altar." Our tiny Buddhist altar rested on an old crate beside the entrance to the kitchen; it was the only thing of value in our tipsy house. In front of a rough carving of Amida, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, stood tiny black mortuary tablets bearing the Buddhist names of our dead ancestors. "But, Father...wasn't there anything else?" I hoped he would reply, but he only made a gesture with his hand that meant for me to leave.

Bookclub Guide

US1. Many people in the West think of geisha simply as prostitutes. After reading Memoirs of a Geisha, do you see the geisha of Gion as prostitutes? What are the similarities, and what are the differences? What is the difference between being a prostitute and being a "kept woman," as Sayuri puts it [p. 291]?2. "The afternoon when I met Mr. Tanaka Ichiro," says Sayuri, "really was the best and the worst of my life" [p. 7]. Is Mr. Tanaka purely motivated by the money he will make from selling Chiyo to Mrs. Nitta, or is he also thinking of Chiyo's future? Is he, as he implies in his letter, her friend?3. In his letter to Chiyo, Mr. Tanaka says "The training of a geisha is an arduous path. However, this humble person is filled with admiration for those who are able to recast their suffering and become great artists" [p. 103]. The word "geisha" in fact derives from the Japanese word for art. In what does the geisha's art consist? How many different types of art does she practice?4. Does Sayuri have a better life as a geisha than one assumes she would have had in her village? How does one define a "better" life? Pumpkin, when offered the opportunity to run away, declines [p. 53]; she feels she will be safer in Gion. Is her decision wise?5. How does Sayuri's status at the Nitta okiya resemble, or differ from, that of a slave? Is she in fact a slave? Are Mother and Granny cruel by nature, or has the relentless life of Gion made them what they are? If so, why is Auntie somewhat more human? Does Auntie feel real affection for Sayuri and Pumpkin, or does she see them simply as chattel?6. "We must use whatever methods we can to understand the movement of the universe around us and time our actions so that we are not fighting the currents, but moving with them" [p. 127]. How does this attitude differ from the Western notion of seizing control of one's destiny? Which is the more valid? What are Sayuri's feelings and beliefs about "free will"?7. Do you see Sayuri as victimized by Nobu's attentions, or do you feel pity for Nobu in his hopeless passion for Sayuri? Do you feel that, in finally showing her physical scorn for Nobu, Sayuri betrayed a friend, or that real friendship is impossible between a man and a woman of their respective stations?8. How do Japanese ideas about eroticism and sexuality differ from Western ones? Does the Japanese ideal of femininity differ from ours? Which parts of the female body are fetishized in Japan, which in the West?9. The geisha's ritual of preparing herself for the teahouse is a very elaborate affair; how essentially does it differ from a Western women's preparation for a date? Why might Golden have chosen to begin his narrative with a "Translator's Note"? What does this device accomplish for him? In Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden has done a very daring thing: he, an American man, has written in the voice of a Japanese woman. How successfully does he disguise his own voice? While reading the novel, did you feel that you were hearing the genuine voice of a woman?10. Does the way in which the Kyoto men view geisha differ from the way they might view other women, women whom they might marry? What are the differences? How, in turn, do geisha view men? Is the geisha's view of men significantly different from that of ordinary women? Do you find that the relationship between a geisha and her danna is very different from that between a Western man and his mistress? What has led Sayuri to think that "a geisha who expects understanding from her danna is like a mouse expecting sympathy from a snake" [p. 394]?11. As the older Sayuri narrates her story, it almost seems as though she presents Chiyo and Sayuri as two different people. In what ways are Chiyo and Sayuri different? In what ways are they recognizably the same person?12. Pumpkin believes that Sayuri betrayed her when she, rather than Pumpkin, was adopted by the Nitta okiya. Do you believe that Sayuri was entirely blameless in this incident? Might she have helped to make Pumpkin's life easier while they were in the okiya together? Or has Pumpkin's character simply been corrupted by her years with Hatsumomo and the entire cruel system that has exploited her?13. Sayuri senses that she shares an en, a lifelong karmic bond, with Nobu [p. 295]. How might a Western woman express this same idea? During Sayuri's life, Japan goes through a series of traumas and unprecedented cultural change: the Great Depression, the War, the American Occupation. How do the inhabitants of Gion view political events in the outside world? How much effect do such events have upon their lives? How aware are they of mainstream Japanese culture and life?14. What personal qualities do Sayuri and Mameha have that make them able to survive and even prosper in spite of the many cruelties they have suffered? Why is Hatsumomo, for example, ultimately unable to survive in Gion? Is Sayuri the victim of a cruel and repressive system, a woman who can only survive by submitting to men? Or is she a tough, resourceful person who has not only survived but built a good life for herself with independence and even a certain amount of power?

From Our Editors

Let novelist Arthur Golden take you on a journey to a distant and fascinating world in Memoirs of a Geisha. Meet Sayuri, one of Japan's most respected geishas. From the tender age of nine, her parents sell her into the rigid world of becoming a geisha. She learns dance, how to be the perfect woman and how to deal with jealous rivals. This evocative first novel, an international best-seller, is riveting from start to finish.

Editorial Reviews

"A startling debut.... By turns fairy tale, romance, coming of age and historical first novel, Memoirs of a Geisha is an astounding magic act." -Ottawa Citizen"A fascinating, poignant and entirely believable tale, as delicate, intricate and beautiful as the silk kimonos so central to the story.... Captivating ... lush [and] lyrical.... This is a luxurious book, every page fat with evocative, beautiful words.... If life is a simple stream, Memoirs of a Geisha is a shimmering pebble that makes the water dance." -The Toronto Sun"A startling act of literary impersonation, a feat of cross-cultural masquerade on the order of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day.... Golden's description of a kept woman's fleshly epiphanies has the purity of Colette." -Vogue"Cause for celebration.... Rarely has a world so closed and foreign been evoked with such natural assurance.... In the unforgettable Sayuri, Golden has found the heart and matter of a truth that lies beyond detail." -The New Yorker"A truly engrossing story. The reader suffers, triumphs, dreams and doubts with the heroine, all the way through.... Beautifully written." -Sunday Express"Exceptional....This is one of those rare novels that evokes a vanished world with absolute conviction." -Daily Mail