Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

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.”

-Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

Synopsis: Chiyo grew up in rural Japan, surrounded by family and nature, but one day she is suddenly thrust into the life of a geisha-in-training. She must learn to sing, dance, play the shamisen, and entertain powerful men. Once she is “ready,” she is dubbed Sayuri, and the auction for her virginity–the last step before becoming a full geisha–ensues. Through her relationships with her clients, she learns what’s most important to her and what she really wants in life and love.

The Good: I was nervous to read a book in the point of view of a Japanese woman written by a white man, because I figured it would feelinauthentic or wrong. But Sayuri’s voice is genuine, and this book tells her story (and those of geisha in general) in a didactic, contemplative way. I really enjoyed reading it.

The Bad: There’s nothing in particular I didn’t like, just wasn’t 100% blown away.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Challenge(s) satisfied: #18, read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.

On the film adaptation: The movie of Memoirs of a Geisha was beautiful, but it was slow and too dramatic. It was relatively true to the book, but it lacked full character development without the ability to narrate thoughts and key interpersonal turning points. As is often the case, the book was better than the movie.

Memoirs of a Geisha is book 3 for my Read Harder Challenge. You can also check out my reviews of All The Light We Cannot See and Roller Girl.

An affiliate link is used in this post. All opinions in this review are my own and are not influenced by the affiliate.

12 thoughts on “Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

  1. I loved the book and as well the movie… a heartbreaking reality, but at the same time full of grace.
    For us in the West is somewhat difficult to understand the uses and customs of Japan… tied to the barbarism of the Samurai, by the grace of the Haiku, to the sensitivity Zen… A long history, somehow, make us increasingly curious. I myself love the Country of the Rising Sun, which I visited several times… up to push me to try to learn their language.


      • You shall… but you need to first “prepare” yourself and read something about Japanese culture. People seems not as friendly as americans are… but has nothing to do with being friendly or open to visitors.
        One good way is to avoid group-traveling: go there alone only with one friend, read “lonely planet” first, there are few interesting informations and suggestions.
        Have a lovely day :-)claudine


  2. Pingback: The Week’s End // All Sorts of Interesting Stuff – ZEN AND Π

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