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Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel Paperback – January 10, 1999
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"Astonishing . . . breathtaking . . . You are seduced completely." —Washington Post Book World
"Captivating, minutely imagined . . . a novel that refuses to stay shut." —Newsweek
"A story with the social vibrancy and narrative sweep of a much-loved 19th century bildungsroman. . . . This is a high-wire act. . . . Rarely has a world so closed and foreign been evoked with such natural assurance." —The New Yorker
From the Inside Flap
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.
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as for book vs. movie- after i read the book i watched the movie and noticed a lot of changes. the book is really long so i don't blame the writers for leaving stuff out and making modifications. when you read the book you get a better understanding of the characters. i kind of felt like reading the book first ruined the movie for me because i expected it to be just as good as the book, but it's really hard to make a movie as good as a book, not to mention a really long book.
over all- this book is the best book i've ever read. you get to see a society that's so different from ours. plus i loved the historical context. this is a must read!
Suffice to say that I was completely captivated from Chapter one, and was even reluctant to put it down at the end. The novel tells the story of a young Japanese girl named Chiyo who is taken from her village in the 1930s and sent to Gion, to an okiya or geisha house. Her sister Satsu is also taken, but lacking Chiyo's striking beauty, she is sent to a house of ill repute. At first Chiyo dreams of finding Satsu and running away from Gion, but later realizes that this is never going to happen.
The resident geisha at her okiya is a jealous and arrogant woman named Hatsumomo, who sabotages Chiyo's progress towards becoming a geisha herself, leaving Chiyo in the unenviable position of being a maid for the rest of her life. Fortunately for Chiyo, a chance encounter with a wealthy businessman (known as the Chairman) opens new doors for her and this brief meeting changes the course of her life forever.
Soon, Hatsumomo's rival, an extremely popular and successful geisha named Mameha decides to take Chiyo under her wing as her little sister, and after the usual haggling over fees and royalties is completed, Chiyo finally gets her chance to continue her geisha training. An intense and vicious rivalry develops between the geisha "tag teams" of Hatsumomo and her trainee Pumpkin, and Mameha and Chiyo, who then assumes the geisha name Sayuri.
With the threefold purpose of defeating Hatsumomo, winning a wager, and paying off Sayuri's debts, Mameha orchestrates a bidding war between rich men for the apparently acceptable privilege of deflowering her young apprentice, the financial results of which set a new record in geisha history at the time.
Just when things seem to be settling down nicely, two events shatter the relative calm, and Sayuri finds herself torn emotionally by the reappearance of the Chairman, and then later, mentally and physically by the outbreak of World War II. After the War, she goes back to being a geisha, but has to choose between following her heart and following what seems to be the obvious path.
The film and the novel are different in several sections, even down to the ending, but of course the book provides a lot of important background information that could not be captured in the movie version, even though I'm not sure of the historical accuracy. I would strongly recommend them BOTH to anyone who is not familiar with the amazing gilded world of Geisha.
Amanda Richards, April 14, 2007