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Geisha, A Life Paperback – September 1, 2003
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Revealing the secrets of the geisha's "art of perfection," this graceful memoir documents a disappearing world. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mineko delivers an absorbing account of her life and training as a very top geisha in Gion, the most exclusive of Kyoto's geisha districts. For those who are comparing her tale to Golden's, keep in mind that Golden is writing fiction, in fact, almost fairy-tale-esque fiction (complete with wicked stepsister, wicked stepmother, fairy god-mother, handsome prince, etc.) Mineko's tale is true, and archly told; Mineko herself comes across as a very strong, in some places almost domineering personality, as one would expect given her position in the family she was adopted into and her family's high-status position in Gion. The strength of her personality makes reading this book a wonderful pleasure.
However, Mineko's position within the geisha hierarchy was very atypical. She was at the very top of the heap, with all sorts of perks and privileges due to her station that many other geisha did not have (atotori so everyone respects her from day one; she gets personal access to the Big Mistress, tremendous financial and professional support in launching her career from her very-high-status okiya etc.), and it's not clear in the book that she understood this at the time, or indeed understands this now.Read more ›
With "Geisha : A Life," Mineko Iwasaki lifts some of the veils of this fantasy world and shows that, underneath the make-up and fancy hairstyles, Geiko are just women, with the same thoughts and feelings and pride and emotion as everyone else. In some ways, this destroys the fantasy, being able to see "behind-the-scenes." The life of a Geiko is very difficult and somewhat...boring. Like a dedicated ballet dancer, the bulk of their life is training and practice, trying to achieve a near-impossible idea of body and movement.
"Geisha: A Life" is not compellingly written, nor as fascinating as the sexualized and fictional account "Memoirs of a Geisha." It is not as academically insightful and full of details as Liza Dalby's "Geisha." But it is honest and real. Mineko's account of her life is straightforward, without much decoration. After reading it, you will know what it is like to be a Geiko.
Woven into this account, perhaps unintentionally, is the loss of Japan's disappearing past. Mineko doesn't bat an eye when telling the story of how she leveled their 100-year old Geisha residence, in order to build a modern night club and hair salon because she thought it would make more money. She talks with hope of her artist husband someday becoming one of Japan's legendary Living Treasures, but doesn't see how she should belong in the same category. She feels loss for the fading world of the traditional Japanese arts, but keeps destroying them along with everyone else.
"Geisha: A Life" is the true story of Iwasaki's illustrious career as Japan's number one geiko. At the age of five, Iwasaki began training at an okiya in the Gion district of Kyoto. She was later adopted by the okiya's owner and named as its eventual successor. Iwasaki worked tirelessly to perfect her craft and went through a lot of difficult times. She eventually grew frustrated by the limitations of her career and retired at the age of 29 so that she could raise a family and follow her own dreams.
This book is full of many details regarding the everyday life of geishas. I can see why some fans of "Memoirs of a Geisha" are disappointed because this book is a lot more straightforward and technical than Gordon's novel. However, Iwasaki's story does not lack emotion or passion. Iwasaki is open and honest about many unpleasant experiences in her life: being separated from her parents, surviving an attempted rape by her nephew, etc. I guess those things don't even begin to compare to what the character of Sayuri endures in "Memoirs of a Geisha," but once again, Sayuri is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER! I don't understand how people can compare her and Iwasaki. Sayuri isn't real! End of story.
I've always been fascinated by the geisha tradition, and I loved this book because it sheds so much more insight into this mysterious and often misrepresented way of life. Iwasaki's story is amazing, and I'm glad she chose to share it with the world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an interesting look into a culture that is unknown to most Westerners. Sadly, however, the writing is quite dull.Published 1 month ago by Bonnie Cameron
This is a memoir of Japan's foremost geisha. I loved this book and will read it again. It tells of how geisha girls are picked and groomed for their profession. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mary Raynor
We're fascinated by geisha in the West. We often have a lot of wrong ideas about it, and all too frequently find the reality just plain weird. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Charles Pooter
A really compelling read. I am a big fan of Memoirs of a Geisha, and I enjoyed this more. It's interesting to learn the more historical perspective.Published 2 months ago by Lin
I found this book at a used bookstore, and having been always fascinated with the Geisha culture, I found it refreshing to hear stories from one of the most renowned Geisha in... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Steph
Easy read and very interesting story. Shed light on life of the seemingly glorious Geisha. Based on a true story. Life is always about choices.Published 3 months ago by Gigi Chung
I wanted to like this book but I really couldn't. The first person narrator goes from a selfish, spoiled child to a haughty, arrogant adult. She is very quick to insult others. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Gryphon50