Difference between revisions of "Memoirs of a Geisha"

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'''''Memoirs of a Geisha''''' is a novel by [[Arthur Golden]] published on 1997-09-27. It tells the story of a Japanese girl named Chiyo Sakamoto who, at the age of nine, is sold to a geisha boarding house where she is taught to be a geisha. She becomes very successful and brings a lot of money to her house, but, despite being adored by many menu, her life is cold and lonely, and she falls in love with a man she can never be with.
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[[Image:Memoirs of a Geisha - Hardcover - USA - 1st Edition.jpg|thumb|256x256px|US hardcover, first edition.]]
  
I learned about this book in the mid-2000s because it became popular enough to have a [[Memoirs of a Geisha (film|movie]] made about it. I wisely read the book before seeing the movie. After enjoying the book, and thinking the movie was acceptable, I read about what critics were saying about book and was disappointed to learn that the book is actually pretty racist, containing a lot of Orientalism where Golden exaggerated aspects of Japanese life in order to make it seem more exotic, especially in regard to geisha life. For example, in the book, geisha auction off their virginity, but in real Japanese culture, only prostitutes would do this, not geisha.
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'''''Memoirs of a Geisha''''' is a novel by [[Arthur Golden]] published on 1997-09-27. It tells the story of a Japanese girl named Chiyo Sakamoto who, at the age of nine, is sold to a geisha boarding house where she is taught to be a geisha. She becomes very successful and brings a lot of money to her house, but, despite being adored by many menu, her life is cold and lonely because she falls in love with a man she may never be able to be with.
 +
 
 +
I heard about this book in the mid-2000s because it became popular enough to have a [[Memoirs of a Geisha (film)|movie]] made about it. I wisely read the book before seeing the movie, and enjoyed the book, and though the movie was passable. Afterward, I read what critics had written about book and was disappointed to learn that the book exaggerates Japanese culture so much to the point of [[Orientalism]]. I recently re-read the book with this knowledge and had a much harder time appreciating it.
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==Status==
 +
I own a first edition hardcover copy and have read it. I have also listened to an audio book recording.
  
 
==Review==
 
==Review==
 
===Good===
 
===Good===
* The story is well-written. It describes a woman persevering through serious hardships,
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* I found the story to be well-structured. I identify with some of the characters, see their personal growth, and found the story to be pretty exciting and interesting the whole time. I always find welcoming the plot of a woman persevering through serious hardships.
* Hatsumomo is a fiendishly evil villain.
+
* Most of the women at the okiya are great villains, Hatsumomo is especially fiendish.
 
* The author, Arthur Golden, consulted actual geisha for information about the book, which is nice.
 
* The author, Arthur Golden, consulted actual geisha for information about the book, which is nice.
  
 
===Bad===
 
===Bad===
* The life described by Golden in the book, while great for a story, doesn't fit with actual biographies of real geisha.
+
* Golden is a Western author telling a story set in Japan before he was born. Naturally, he gets a lot wrong. Biographies written by actual geisha tell markedly different stories. Golden is also a man telling the story of a half-dozen women. Because of this, it seems like he places a lot of male thoughts in their heads.
 +
* Some of the similes and metaphors are clever, but there are far too many of them. There are usually one or two per page.
 +
* All of the people in the story believe the transparent lies of Hatsumomo far too eagerly, even the women of the okiya who should know better.
 +
* The inclusion of divination is to be expected, but Golden unfortunately makes it seem real.
 +
* Sayuri's pining for the chairman gets old halfway through, and pretty annoying by the end.
 +
* Not too long after reading the book, I realized that I had completely forgotten the ending. The second time I read the book, I realized why; it's pretty dull.
  
 
===Ugly===
 
===Ugly===
* In order to make the setting seem more appealing, the author exaggerates aspects of Japanese culture so much, it borders on racist caricature.
+
* In general, fiction is expected to exaggerate reality to make it more interesting, but Golden uses someone else's culture in order to do this. Actual Japanese people have said that his descriptions of Japanese culture aren't too far from racist caricature.
 
* Mineko Iwasaki, one of the geisha with whom the author consulted to get inside information into the life of a geisha only spoke with him on the condition that her identity never be revealed, but the author included her name in the finished book anyway.
 
* Mineko Iwasaki, one of the geisha with whom the author consulted to get inside information into the life of a geisha only spoke with him on the condition that her identity never be revealed, but the author included her name in the finished book anyway.
* The introduction paints the book as though it is an actual biography of a real geisha. I believed this for a large part of the book, but several of the Japanese culture exaggerations made me suspect, so I checked and verified that it was not a real biography. I don't like it when authors pretend their fiction is real, it makes me feel very cheated.
+
* The introduction paints the book as though it is an actual biography of a real geisha, and the narration keeps it going by including real events and people. Not having paid attention to the cover which identifies the book as a novel, I took the intro at face value and assumed I was reading a real biography for the first half of the book, but several aspects of Japanese culture were described so suspiciously, it caused me to check the veracity online and confirm it was indeed entirely fictional. I don't like it when authors pretend their fiction is real, it makes me feel cheated.
 +
 
 +
==Covers==
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<gallery>
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Memoirs of a Geisha - Hardcover - USA - 1st Edition.jpg|US hardcover, first edition<br /><br />The original run of books features a black and white photograph of a woman I can only assume is a Japanese geisha. It has been partially colorized in a soft pinkish brown. The photo is intriguing, but the typeface doesn't fit at all.
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Memoirs of a Geisha - Paperback - USA.jpg|US paperback<br /><br />Same as the hardcover, just with a bit more of the photograph and some advertising text.
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Memoirs of a Geisha - Paperback - USA - Reissue.jpg|US paperback, reprint<br /><br />The reissue uses the movie cover. It's a Chinese woman in Westernized makeup, so it doesn't fit at all. And, seriously, [[Trajan]]? How is that even remotely appropriate?
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Memoirs of a Geisha - Paperback - UK.jpg|UK paperback<br /><br />A photograph focusing on the unique application of lipstick used by geisha; very striking. I also like the typeface. This is my favorite cover.
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</gallery>
  
 
==Links==
 
==Links==
 
* [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_a_Geisha en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_a_Geisha] - Wikipedia.
 
* [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_a_Geisha en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoirs_of_a_Geisha] - Wikipedia.
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* [https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/929.Memoirs_of_a_Geisha goodreads.com/book/show/929.Memoirs_of_a_Geisha] - GoodReads.
  
  
 
[[Category: Books]]
 
[[Category: Books]]
 
[[Category: Fiction]]
 
[[Category: Fiction]]
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[[Category: Historical Fiction]]
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[[Category: Strong Female Character]]
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[[Category: World War II]]
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[[Category: Japanese Culture]]
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[[Category: Books I've Read]]

Latest revision as of 09:56, 8 October 2018

US hardcover, first edition.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel by Arthur Golden published on 1997-09-27. It tells the story of a Japanese girl named Chiyo Sakamoto who, at the age of nine, is sold to a geisha boarding house where she is taught to be a geisha. She becomes very successful and brings a lot of money to her house, but, despite being adored by many menu, her life is cold and lonely because she falls in love with a man she may never be able to be with.

I heard about this book in the mid-2000s because it became popular enough to have a movie made about it. I wisely read the book before seeing the movie, and enjoyed the book, and though the movie was passable. Afterward, I read what critics had written about book and was disappointed to learn that the book exaggerates Japanese culture so much to the point of Orientalism. I recently re-read the book with this knowledge and had a much harder time appreciating it.

Status

I own a first edition hardcover copy and have read it. I have also listened to an audio book recording.

Review

Good

  • I found the story to be well-structured. I identify with some of the characters, see their personal growth, and found the story to be pretty exciting and interesting the whole time. I always find welcoming the plot of a woman persevering through serious hardships.
  • Most of the women at the okiya are great villains, Hatsumomo is especially fiendish.
  • The author, Arthur Golden, consulted actual geisha for information about the book, which is nice.

Bad

  • Golden is a Western author telling a story set in Japan before he was born. Naturally, he gets a lot wrong. Biographies written by actual geisha tell markedly different stories. Golden is also a man telling the story of a half-dozen women. Because of this, it seems like he places a lot of male thoughts in their heads.
  • Some of the similes and metaphors are clever, but there are far too many of them. There are usually one or two per page.
  • All of the people in the story believe the transparent lies of Hatsumomo far too eagerly, even the women of the okiya who should know better.
  • The inclusion of divination is to be expected, but Golden unfortunately makes it seem real.
  • Sayuri's pining for the chairman gets old halfway through, and pretty annoying by the end.
  • Not too long after reading the book, I realized that I had completely forgotten the ending. The second time I read the book, I realized why; it's pretty dull.

Ugly

  • In general, fiction is expected to exaggerate reality to make it more interesting, but Golden uses someone else's culture in order to do this. Actual Japanese people have said that his descriptions of Japanese culture aren't too far from racist caricature.
  • Mineko Iwasaki, one of the geisha with whom the author consulted to get inside information into the life of a geisha only spoke with him on the condition that her identity never be revealed, but the author included her name in the finished book anyway.
  • The introduction paints the book as though it is an actual biography of a real geisha, and the narration keeps it going by including real events and people. Not having paid attention to the cover which identifies the book as a novel, I took the intro at face value and assumed I was reading a real biography for the first half of the book, but several aspects of Japanese culture were described so suspiciously, it caused me to check the veracity online and confirm it was indeed entirely fictional. I don't like it when authors pretend their fiction is real, it makes me feel cheated.

Covers

Links