Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
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Memoirs of a Geisha
By Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha

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Format: Paperback

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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Book Awards

  • Winner of Whitaker Gold Book Award 2001.
  • Runner-up for The BBC Big Read Top 100 2003.
  • Shortlisted for BBC Big Read Top 100 2003.

Book Description

This story is a rare and utterly engaging experience. It tells the extraordinary story of a geisha -summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan's dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Her memoirs conjure up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the land's most powerful men.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099771517
ISBN-10: 0099771519
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 32mm)
Pages: 512
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Jun-1998
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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UK Kirkus Review » This is the kind of book that you just have to persuade your spouse, friends, colleagues, relations or even chance acquaintances to read. It sets itself up as a transcript of the memoirs of a genuine geisha, as told to an American professor of Japanese history. Gradually an extraordinary story unfolds, revealing the tragic, touching tale of the transformation of Chiyo, the daughter of a poor fisherman into Sayuri, a renowned and much sought-after geisha in Kyoto in the 1930s. The story, told without sentimentality, delves beneath the glamorous, erotic facade of these immaculate women constrained by centuries of tradition, rules and regulations, to expose the grim reality of their lives. Our heroine, like the rest of her fellow geishas, is chained to the profession thrust upon her, by insurmountable debts accrued forcibly in her name. Behind the elegant and delicious images of Japanese prints lies hidden a world of intrigue, formality and cruelty. An altogether remarkable and riveting account that has one almost believing it really is a true autobiography. The sheer bulk of fascinating, often painful, yet sometimes joyful, detail of this uniquely Japanese stylized way of life woven into the gentle Sayuri's story make fascinating and enthralling reading. Review by SOPHIE GRIGSON (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Cherry blossom-delicate, with images as carefully sculpted as bonsai, this tale of the life of a renowned geisha, one of the last flowers of a kind all but eliminated by WW II, marks an auspicious, unusual debut. Japan is already changing, becoming industrialized and imperialistic, when in 1929 young Chiyo's fisherman father sells her to a house in Kyoto's famous Gion district. The girl's gray-eyed beauty is startling even in childhood, so much so that her training is impeded by the jealousy of her house's primary geisha, the popular, petty Hatsumomo. Caught trying to run away, Chiyo loses her trainee status until taken under the wing of Mameha, a bitter rival of Hatsumomo. Chiyo flourishes with Mameha as her guide, soon receiving her geisha name, Sayuri, and having her mentor skillfully arrange the two main events vital to a geisha's success: the sale of Sayuri's virginity (for a record price), and the finding of a sugar-daddy to pay her way. Seeing the implications of Japan's militarism, Mameha pairs Sayuri with the general in charge of army provisions, so that as WW II drags on she and her house have things no one else in Gion can obtain. After the war, with her general dead and others vying for her attention, Sayuri pines anew for the only man she ever loved - an electrical-corporation chairman whose kindness to a crying Chiyo years before altered the course of her future. He seems out of reach since his right-hand man and closest friend is her most ardent admirer, but in the end her long-thwarted happiness is accomplished. Though incomparable in its view of a geisha's life behind the scenes, the story loses immediacy as it goes along. When modern times eclipse Gion's sheltered world, the latter part of Sayuri's life - compared to the incandescent clarity of its first decades - seems increasingly flat. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Arthur Golden

Arthur Golden was born and brought up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is a 1978 graduate of Harvard College with a degree in art history, specialising in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an MA in Japanese history from Columbia University where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. After a summer at Beijing University, he went to work at a magazine in Tokyo. In 1988 he recieved an MA in English from Boston University. He has lived and worked in Japan, and since that time has been teaching writing and literature in the Boston area. He now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and children

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