Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden

On the jacket: 

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 degradation. 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 to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most powerful men.


The first time I read Memoirs Of A Geisha was more than a decade ago. It is originally a Japanese novel which when published, led to a lawsuit on author Arthur Golden for defamation of character (by the Geisha whom he had interviewed for background information.) I saw the movie in between, a few years ago and it just refreshed the entire story. This is one of the book which despite having been read so many year ago, has every instance vivid in my mind. As a child, I used to watch the Japanese teleserial Oshin and then reading about Sayuri and the other characters in this book, was interesting. Yes, as you might have guessed, Memoirs Of A Geisha is one of my absolute favourite works of fiction. 

Told in first person, Memoirs of a Geisha is story spun around the time of before and after the World War II. Having read it the first time, as a teenage, I mostly had my eyes wide open while reading it. Different culture, different people, so many hardships, new traditions - the book had it all to offer. The book is realistic and takes the reader through a ride of the lifestyles and general traditions of Japan of that era. Back then, poverty striken families would sell their young daughters to Okiyas (boarding houses for geishas) where the girls were trained to grow up to be Geishas. They would spend their lives in these Okiyas. 

A life of a Geisha is extremely interesting, to say the least. Do not even remotely confuse an Okiya to our local Kamathipura, there is a vast vast difference. I always do, and shall even now say, grab a copy and read this book. You'll only have an excellent reading experience!

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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