Customer Reviews


2,956 Reviews
5 star:
 (1,991)
4 star:
 (519)
3 star:
 (221)
2 star:
 (131)
1 star:
 (94)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


132 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel to Savor!!!
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...
Published on May 9, 2003 by M. Allen Greenbaum

versus
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Despite its caricature-like personalities, a fine debut novel
This first book by American writer Arthur Golden is an extremely easy read - a page-turner for sure - and all in all it presents an intriguing Japanese Cinderella story. Mr Golden has also made quite an amazing attempt at literary personification.

Yet, I never quite felt that it was "dictated" by a true Kyoto geisha. Instead, I continually had the feel that the...
Published on December 8, 2005 by kattepusen


‹ Previous | 1 2296 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

132 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel to Savor!!!, May 9, 2003
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Evocative Peek Into the "Flower and Willow World", December 22, 1999
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha (Hardcover)
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. Sayuri and her fellow geisha may be trained from birth to be beautiful flowers, but they are also very human "working girls" (and I don't mean that in the sense of prostitute) Although there is an ever-present sexual overtone to the role of geisha, 99% of the time it is subliminal rather than overt, which I think Mr. Golden makes clear. I agree with one of the other reviewers who equated a geisha mistress with a Western "trophy wife". This is a very apt description. While wives are chosen for their docility, domestic skills, and breeding potential, a geisha mistress provides color, dash and sexual sauce for those who are lucky enough to afford them. However, in today's economy, a man would have to sport a bankroll the size of Donald Trump's to be a serious contender for a geisha mistress.
Geisha are not flourishing these days, but a few communities still survive in major Japanese cities. For an excellent, highly readable treatment of the "modern" geisha (if this is not an oxymoron!) I highly recommend Liza Dalby's book "Geisha." The author was the only Western woman ever or since to apprentice as a Kyoto geisha, so she knows what she is talking about.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


102 of 118 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic and Evocative, December 17, 2003
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha Uk (Paperback)
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. It's a strange, wonderful style of writing - set at a slow pace (after all, this is the story of a life from start to near-finish), Golden neatly sidesteps any sort of flagging pace by creating some hugely memorable characters - Auntie, Mameha, Mother and the destructive Hatsumomo - and giving them fully-realised personalities. The consistency with which Golden creates these women is admirable - after a while we feel we know them. Their reactions and situations seem perfectly reasonable to us, thanks to excellent character construction and atmospheric prose.
An epic, enthralling and sensitive novel, 'Memoirs of a Geisha' is a huge recommendation for anybody fond of novels, epics and truly exceptional examples of fiction.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of a Geisha, December 4, 1999
By 
Janine (Trumbull, CT USA) - See all my reviews
This book is extraordinary, combining highly literary style with unusual subject matter, the world of the geisha. No, geishas are not high-class prostitutes, nor are they femmes fatales -- there is no comparable class of woman in Western society. In this piece of virtual historical fiction, we follow the life of a highly successful geisha from the time she was taken away from her parents at age 9 before the Depression. . . to her old age in Manhattan in modern times. Most of the story centers on the geisha's coming of age, struggles with other women and search for love (of sorts) during the 1930s and 1940s. Not only do we get inside the head and heart of one deeply sensitive woman in her particular world, but also see reflected the characteristic grace, stoicism and politeness of Japanese culture. We certainly would not wish to be a geisha. Yet,as we read through this gripping account, we couldn'tt help but wonder whether today's Western woman isn't "kept" in other ways. Finally, the author deals eloquently with Japanese spirtuality, and the protaganist's struggle to find meaning in her life and to deal with the loss of her family and other misfortunes in her childhood.This is a one-of-a-kind and beautifully written book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Despite its caricature-like personalities, a fine debut novel, December 8, 2005
This first book by American writer Arthur Golden is an extremely easy read - a page-turner for sure - and all in all it presents an intriguing Japanese Cinderella story. Mr Golden has also made quite an amazing attempt at literary personification.

Yet, I never quite felt that it was "dictated" by a true Kyoto geisha. Instead, I continually had the feel that the story was told through Western eyes masqurading as Oriental eyes. I cannot quite put my finger on it - perhaps it was the superfluous use of the "Japanese" aligories along with the overly descripted kimonoes - however, the story seemed to be too American-made... Moreover, several of the characters were in my opinion quite one-dimensional. Surely there must have been more to a geisha such as Hatsumomo besides her beauty and cruelty? Or to the mean greedy Mother? Or to the lovely and kind Mameha?

Oh well - I did in fact quite like the story and particularly the descriptions of pre-WW2 Japan. Also, the presentations of the various cultural rituals, including the elegant tea ceremonies, were delightful reading.

This is one of those books that makes you want to find more literature and facts about its subject matter - I can't wait to read more (hopefully authentic) descriptions about Geisha life. Memoirs of a Geisha is like a juicy appetizer that leaves you hungry for the main dish.

I recommend the book despite its shortcomings. I have not yet seen the movie; however, I cannot wait to see the sure-to-be delightful Geisha dancing and elaborate costumes...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More atmosphere than story, July 29, 2005
The strengths of the book shine through from the first page to the last. Golden's poetic and beautiful imagery, tinged with zen simplicity, understanding and appreciation for beauty and nature, inform the narrator's thoughts and descriptions, and while not always peaceful or reflective, the feel of the novel comes across as genuine. A Japanese reader may well feel that this is a cheap rendering of their speech and culture; but the target audience is the west, readers reading in English, and to an American there is a natural grace to Golden's prose, unforced and simple, yet often vivid and imaginative.

The weaknesses are unfortunately in the story and in some of the characters. Simply put, the story line comes across as jerky and episodic, random and finally contrived, and too pat. The story's ending, with the heroine achieving her goal at long last, almost entirely by wild luck and coincidence rather than the twenty years of pining and planning that have been described, is not satisfying, and is clumsy. She has done nothing to earn this, and little to earn so much else.

The characters are similarly spotty. Her erstwhile friend and later competitor Pumpkin is well drawn for a minor character, and the changes in her personality over time are interesting and well done. Hatsumomo, the villain of the novel, is sharply drawn and genuinely scary, a well executed character. And Nobu is perhaps the most fully realized character in the book; by the end of the story, his gruff but honest quality, and how he is treated, actually makes the narrator less sympathetic. But the narrator comes across as thoughtful, kind, and good; however, indecisive, and prone to allow fate to decide her course in life. Again and again the reader mentally urges her to do something, do anything, to further her progress along; but no, she waits for life to happen to her. It is frustrating going for readers weaned on Raymond Chandler books. Tanaka, Auntie, Mother, Granny, Satsu and the Chairman are all essentially cardboard characters; there is little logic behind Sayuri's extended obsession for one older man who offers neither compassion, companionship, nor even conversation, year after year.

That said, the book's strengths make this a fascinating read. The background of World War II, the dying of the geisha culture and changing of Japan in the postwar period are all touched on, and one sees a bit of the rough side of female servitude as well as the smooth. It's a good read, and should make for a beautiful movie.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By Far The Best Book I Have Ever Read!, December 1, 1999
And I read a book a week! Memoirs of a Geisha is destined to be one of the greatest books of this century (or any other for that matter). Arthur Golden writes with such an amazing eye for detail and feeling that the reader forgets that this book is fiction and that the author is a man.
I fell in love with the characters, with their world and having been to Japan it made me want to return - tomorrow! This book is beautifully written and the topic is unique.
I could not put this book down and when I finished it I felt as though I had lost a good friend. I have read it several times since I first picked it up in April and I always enjoy it.
The most interesting thing about this book is that the author wrote it three times - this is the third version. I believe that the first two were written from different points of view (third person as well as in another character's voice).
I can not wait to see what Spielberg does with this moving story on film.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good book but Kindle version awful --Amazon need to PROOF READ!, April 1, 2010
By 
This book is good but the Kindle version has a typo every 3 or 4 pages. It's clearly been electronically scanned and not proof read.

This really slows down the reading of the book and, for me, removes lots of enjoyment: after pondering over why it says "stem" instead of "stern", or "fee! happy" rather than "feel happy", or why there are random full stops in the middle of the sentences, the pleasure of reading the text is removed.

As the Kindle version costs the same as the print copy I would expect a similar about of quality control as a book would receive.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please, Mr. Golden tell us more., January 6, 2000
By 
"sprtsauthr" (Chattanooga, Tennessee) - See all my reviews
Reading about this beautiful gray/blue eyed child moved me to the point of tears. Arthur S. Golden (from my hometown of Chattanooga, TN) has done a masterfull job of research for this novel. I picked the book up on a Thursday afternoon, and was finished Friday morning. The trials this child went through at the hands of the owners of the Geisha house and the top Geisha in that house was so painful, at times I found myself enraged at fictional characters. Every part of this novel was so detailed, it ws as if Chiyo/Sayuri was alive and part of my life. Mr. Golden put you in the story, watching this young beauty go through each day, trial, tribulation,and finally, success. Seeing her become the "ultimate" geisha was such a pleasure. At the end of the novel, I was brought to tears because Sayuri was not a real person. I wanted so badly to be able to call New York and speak with this Goddess whom had achieved so much. From a fisherman's daughter to the most well-known Geisha in the world. Mr. Golden, congratulations on bringing this woman to life for so many of us. I must say this is one of the top 10 books, out of hundreds, I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2296 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Paperback - 1999)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.