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Memoirs of a Geisha [Kindle Edition]

Arthur Golden
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,014 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $8.79
You Save: $7.16 (45%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

The first thing you notice about the audio version of Memoirs of a Geisha is that Arthur Golden's 428-page novel has been reduced to a scant two cassettes. But dismay quickly gives way to mounting pleasure as Elaina Erika Davis (Contact, As the World Turns) begins her delicate rendering of geisha culture in the years before World War II. Davis reads the abbreviated story of Sayuri with an authentic-sounding Japanese accent--one mixed with a magical combination of Asian reserve and theatrical energy. As Sayuri ages from a 9-year-old peasant girl to a popular geisha in her late 20s, Davis directs her voice gently away from curious youth to a tone that reflects Sayuri's uphill life.

From start to finish, the listener is absorbed in the elegant spirit of Davis's performance, eager to hear the next chapter of Sayuri's transformation into one of the most famous geishas of the century. How unfortunate, then, to learn that book readers not only get the basic story, but a fascinating look at the intricate rules and rituals of geisha culture. Here, for example, is one of the many revelations omitted from the cassette: "Japanese men, as a rule, feel about a woman's neck and throat the same way that men in the West might feel about a woman's legs.... In fact, a geisha leaves a tiny margin of skin bare all around the hairline, causing her makeup to look even more artificial.... When a man sits beside her, he becomes that much more aware of the bare skin beneath."

We're also denied several subplots--the aborted friendship between Sayuri and a geisha named Pumpkin, for example, or much of the story involving the man Sayuri is secretly in love with. But what remains is as precious as a traditional Japanese kimono--at once artistic, suggestive, and moving. --Ann Senechal

From Library Journal

Golden puts to good use his studies of Japanese culture at Harvard and Columbia in this story of Sayuri, sold into slavery at a geisha house in 1929, who finds that she's on her own when World War II starts. The 75,000-copy first printing says a lot about the publisher's commitment to this debut novel.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 726 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0679781587
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage contemporaries ed edition (November 9, 1999)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,129 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
136 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel to Savor!!! May 9, 2003
This is one of the most beautifully written novels of the past 20 or more years, and definitely one of my personal favorites. Arthur Golden, a student of Japanese art and language, paints a remarkably true-sounding account of one woman's training and practice as a geisha. There's not a false note in the writing: The characters, dialogue, and emotional content all ring true. Aside from some slightly plodding descriptions of the protagonist's introduction to the geisha district of Gion, the pacing is excellent.
I kept waiting for Golden to slip, for some implausibility in character or plot development, some anachronism or "artistic license" that would have made me feel cheated-but it never happened. Without further research, it's difficult for me to comment on the book's historical and cultural accuracy, but it always felt true, and Golden's simple but powerful language is absolutely compelling. The book surpassed my already high expectations, and increased my appreciation of--and curiousity about--historical Japanese social structure in general, and geisha culture in particular. Above all, this is a completely satisfying book about perseverance within boundaries. Both the story and the writing are filled with grace, power, and beauty.
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Evocative Peek Into the "Flower and Willow World" December 22, 1999
By Hikari
As a "gaijin" (foreigner) who spent 6 years in Japan and had ample opportunity to witness many of its social customs, I think it's worth noting that the setting Mr. Golden creates in his "Memoirs" is very much of a Japan gone by. This is sad. It is precisely the aspects of Sayuri's world that are the most exotic to us which exemplify the best of what is uniquely Japanese. Modern Japanese cherish the remnants of that romantic past the same way that Americans revere tales of our pioneering forbears--as a way to hold on to, and honor all that was poetic and noble about ourselves.
I think it also bears mentioning that the average Japanese person today knows almost as little about the life of a typical geisha as the average Westener. Geisha entertainment has always been the province of extremely wealthy, powerful men--going to a teahouse to be entertained by geisha served the same function for a Japanese VIP that a British one would find at his tony men's club. Throughout the centuries that Japan's entertainment quarters--"the flower and willow world" as they call it--has existed, the number of patrons who could afford top-notch geisha entertainment for themselves and their friends has been an exclusive club indeed. In today's highly Westernized and technology-worshipping Japan, the idea of a geisha party is nearly as anachronistic and unattainable as it is here. Geisha belong to the same catagory as cowboys, knights on horseback and damsels-in-distress: cultural icons who have no place in the modern world. Mr. Golden does a superb job of capturing some of the magic of Sayuri's metier for those of us who will never have the opportunity to witness it firsthand.
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103 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating culture - great read June 3, 2005
I loved this book! From the minute I picked it up I couldn't put it down. It tells the story of a young girl sold into geisha training in Japan. I had no idea how much of an art form geisha was in this pre-WWII setting Gion and it was very interesting to learn so much more about it through the eyes of a young girl caught up in it. Sayuri is a wonderfully drawn character with a wide range of emotions as she endures cruelty, jealousy, misery and a whole new way of life and comes to accept it, excel in it and even embrace it. Particularly intriguing are the questions and conflicts raised by the novel about destiny, love, survival and tradition. The movie is coming out in December so I highly recommend reading it now.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic and Evocative December 17, 2003
As a twentysomething Irishman who's only ever lived in the UK, my contact with traditional Japanese culture, society and history is, as you can imagine, scant. However, Golden's classic 'Memoirs of a Geisha' is so beautifully crafted, and so powerfully descriptive, that even my bare knowlege of Japanese history is extended by having read it.
It's the fictional story, cleverly told from an autobiographical point of view, of one of Japan's most famous and enthralling Geisha, a woman of a profession commonly mistaken for prostitution (Golden draws some clever and insightful distinctions between the two, both in general and specifically). Sayuri tells her story from her humble beginnings as Chiyo, the daughter of an impoverished fisherman, through desperation, war and trial, to the final happy ending.
For a man to write so convincingly as a woman is a very rare thing - Nick Hornby's 'How to be Good' is an example of how it can go wrong - but for an American man to write so beautifully and convinvingly as a Japanese woman from a highly secretive society is an unequivocal triumph. We believe, from the first few chapters, that Sayuri is this observant, silent little thing, a lower-class child facing the arduous and enforced task of becoming a Geisha. We are there with her when she is sold into servitude, when she attempts a failed escape, when she eventually becomes a successful geisha - all thanks to Golden's rare gift for combining a strong plot with incredible descriptive prose. You can smell the incense and see the kimono as Sayuri is preparing to go to work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting
A must read. The visions, emotions, and mind-set this memoir creates is just....Enchanting. a must read, even for the not so frequent reader
Published 2 days ago by Christy M Fain
5.0 out of 5 stars I must admit I was silly enough to think before that geishas are plain...
Apart from the heartwarming romance and drama, this book is a totally redolent peek to the word Geisha and to the world of Geishas. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Timothy Olivas
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
as advertised.
Published 6 days ago by Robert H. Mcganty
5.0 out of 5 stars educational and sad.
Entertaining, educational and sad.
Published 11 days ago by Lar and Sue
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Really good book. You forget it's not a real story.
Published 12 days ago by tln
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 15 days ago by william j. rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Memoirs of a Geisha has been one of my favorite movies for years but it took me a long time to read the book. I am glad I did because this is an amazing book. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Cindy S
5.0 out of 5 stars and what a wonderful love story this turned out to be
I found this book to be very interesting to learn of the customs so many years ago, and what a wonderful love story this turned out to be. Great reading.
Published 18 days ago by Kathleen Connelly
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very sad but enjoyed reading it
Published 20 days ago by Patte Sughrue
5.0 out of 5 stars an informative page-turner
I read this on a round-the-world trip where the last stop was Kyoto. Thoroughly engaging and fascinating insights into the life of a geisha. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Etna
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More About the Author

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 where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. In 1988 he received an MA in English from Boston. He has lived and worked in Japan, but now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and children.

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Translator's Note
Jakob Haarhuis is the name of a fictional translator. The note prefaces the book to give it an air of authenticity. I was sucked in as well. Don't feel bad.
Jun 21, 2009 by Robert Dawson |  See all 3 posts
Can anyone help... japanese books or travel related books????

I'd like to talk about my novel, but it doesn't fit what you are looking for so I'll recommend this one. Tom Carter traveled to every province in mainland China to put this together. He risked his life twice, once in Tibet and the second time... Read More
Apr 11, 2008 by Lloyd Lofthouse |  See all 5 posts
Not just a romance
I completely agree that the book is so much more then just a romance. The movie on the other hand....
Jan 27, 2007 by Clap your hands say Yeah. |  See all 2 posts
Looking for cultural female politics books, hard to explain, but maybe...
look for one called the iron lady. its a true story, but a good one its about a woman who rises from being a grocers daughter to being a prime minister.
Jan 6, 2012 by Morgan B. Gibson |  See all 2 posts
A Rose by Any Other Name
The whole book was pointless, which makes it boring. His prose is cheap and his selling pitch relies heavily on discussing a taboo; needless to say, he fails to deliver. We are supposed to cheer for Sayuri because she fights to be free, instead she fights to be a man's permanent concubine. Does... Read More
Apr 7, 2006 by Jonathan Chen |  See all 10 posts
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