Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

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This is a seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, which tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan's most dramatic history, it uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degredation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930s, where a young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice…

Don’t let the book’s size  (448 pages) intimidate you. It was more fast-moving than some 150 pages books I have read.

The Geisha culture, the foods, the lifestyles, the tea ceremonies, the few Japanese words, the dress descriptions- all hold the readers’ attention.

The writing is so vivid that it is more like I had a window view to all the happenings described in the book and is not something I was reading.

The book is a first-person perspective of a poor nine-year-old girl, Chiyo, from a Japanese coastal fishing village.

Chiyo gets sold to an Okiya (Geisha boarding school), and her harrowing life begins. She does all the menial work and barely manages to survive. Hatsumomo, the reigning premier Geisha at the Okiya, torments her and makes her life miserable.

A chance encounter with a kind stranger on one of her bad days, who gives her some money and a handkerchief, brightens her life. Chiyo names him the ‘chairman’ in her mind and dreams about him.

Mameha is another prominent Geisha from the neighborhood who has a rivalry with Hatsumomo. To settle scores with her, she becomes Chiyo’s mentor.

Despite many setbacks, Chiyo becomes a Geisha and is named Sayuri.

She meets her beloved Chairman again though she never tells him about her passion for him.

That’s when war interrupts their lives.

Does Sayuri get to unite with her beloved Chairman?

What happens to Hatsumomo?

Will Sayuri be able to get over the ravages of war?

These are the questions whose answers make the book so enjoyable.

The author has given such a beautiful ending to the Geisha’s tale.

While reading, I googled so many times to ascertain that the book was not based on a real story.

The storytelling with a few incidents that are so true to life made it difficult to believe it was fiction.

Based on the book, a Hollywood movie was released in 2005 and won some awards too.


Buy your copy here:

Sudha Ramnath
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