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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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The story of Saiyuri is a very detailed one, and how she came to be a geisha. The (fictional) biographical novel of a geisha is definitely a wonderful read. I love all things Japanese, and this book is a great insight into the world, as it is well researched and well written. In some places it is like a story, and in others it is like reading an encyclopedia of Japanese culture, and the two mix so well together that it is almost unnoticeable. The characters are believable, and each ones follows their path in life and you know where most of them land. That is definitely good story-telling.
Moreover, the book is also going to draw you into a life story you will want to know about, even if you saw the movie first (like me). believe me, the movie has nothing on the book. It only gives you a visual for what the world looks like. The true depth of the book is much deeper, stronger and more drawn out in a way that the reader will find most enjoyable.
As I said the descriptions alone are enough to make this a worthwhile read. But the story itself is also full of schemes and intrigue, and shadowy unknown benefactors that influence the course of the protagonist's life with small actions that have tremendous impact. It is also a story of true love, as well as a story about the strength and struggles of women in Japan . It allows the reader to become part of a different culture and way of being...and of appreciating that the two layers of Japanese culture: the surface story as illustrated by the beauty and grace of the geishas versus the broken, harsh, and grimy circumstances that produce the geishas. All of this combines to give a thoroughly absorbing reading experience that leaves one feeling a little richer inside for having completed the book.
It was a great book to start off my year and I would recommend it to anyone interested in appreciating gender and culture issues from a different perspective., and to any reader who appreciates a well written tale.