Saturday, August 22, 2015

Memoirs of a Geisha | Book Review

I've watched a lot of Korean series and some of them made me associate Kisaeng as a high class prostitute. I'm not aware of their real function since most of the series are love stories. In movies, it's not explained, you just watched it and form your own conclusion (that's why sometimes I look for book counterpart to understand more). I was a fan of Hwang Jini way back high school but then her first love, Jang Geun Suk, died early for me to finish the whole series. The pretty cover of this book is hard to ignore and initially I thought it's about Kisaeng but soon I realized that Geisha is the Japanese counterpart.

This book portrays Geisha as a woman you could admire. It was quite tricky because in the end I still think of them the same way. Let's understand though that it's part of their culture and they don't have that much choice. It's actually an advantage to become one of them, at least in this book. It's either you become a slave (maid) or become a geisha. It's good to know that despite the poor upbringing, they can still have a wealthy life. It doesn't mean that it's easy because they need to master the art of entertaining, dancing, singing, etc. It means you will study all your life and endure different hardships to become one.

Memoirs of a Geisha Cover
by: Arthur Golden

The story is very easy to relate with. It's like wearing the shoes of the heroine while being transported to different stages of her life and the world where she grew up. This book will make you feel the emotions of a child, a teenager, a woman and an old person. I've noticed that there's a lot of manipulation involved here which is mostly made by the female characters. This is the part where I wonder if it's still part of history or just made up.

Thanks goodness it's not sexually harsh but the whole story is full of sufferings. It started when she was just a 9 year old orphaned kid until she reached the age of 30. It's almost like an autobiography but this book is only a thoroughly researched fiction and was written by a western man. But since it's a fiction and not a first hand experience of the author, it's still just an imaginary world. There was a controversy when the author mentioned in the acknowledgement the name of the geisha she interviewed for this book. The geisha then made her own book too. When it comes to fiction, I don't just believe in the story. It might be different from what really happened in the past.

It was a very detailed story but a part of it is still lacking. It may have shared a part of the old culture of Japanese but they're limited to just being a geisha. It only revolved around the few characters that was mentioned in the book. The author failed to share sufficient story about World War II and the culture outside the life of geisha. The real purpose of geisha in their times especially in their economy is vague. He should have mentioned the origin and the reason of the kind of lives they have before. Is there no other way to have a good status in life?

Love Story

There is a unique love story here. It's just a portion of this book. There's Nobu who is always there for Chiyo, the female protagonist. I felt a deep pity for him because of the unrequited love while still having a huge part in the story. He helped her and sort of saved her life. Can't she just learned to love him? After all those time and emotional investment, all of it were just for nothing.

Is this inspiring? After all the hardship, she only became a mistress. But then, who knows if a mistress is very acceptable during their times? In our country, it's not. It was her long dream though. It was the dream that was with her even when she was still a kid. It's a very weird kind of love story or perhaps companionship.

I don't know the moral lesson since I don't like the end. At least, she became very happy. This book doesn't cheer me up after but it's still nice and worth recommending. It's weird but that's the kind of life they have before.

Rate: 4/5
I still gave this a high score because I never dropped this book. Just once, to sleep.



We human beings are only a part of something very much larger. When we walk along, we may crush a beetle or simply cause a change in the air so that a fly ends up where it might never have gone otherwise... We must use whatever methods we can to understand the movement of the universe around us and time our actions so that we are not fighting the currents, but moving with them.

"Young girls hope all sorts of foolish things, Sayuri. Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one."

"You're eighteen years old, Sayuri," she went on. "Neither you nor I can know your destiny.
You may never know it! Destiny isn't always like a party at the end of the evening.
Sometimes it's nothing more than struggling through life from day to day."


  1. I have heard people talking about this book since I was in college so when I saw one from Booksale Bookstore, I grabbed it since the price was almost half the brand new. I haven't opened it yet (yes it was sealed). I guess I never really opened it since I'm too afraid it would turn out to be boring. Your review made me interested with the story. :)

    Louise |

    1. I'm not sure if you will like this Louise. The last part became boring to me and I didn't like how the story end. It has flaws that I was not able to see at first. Only through reading other reviews that I realize them. It still a very unique story. It made me curious enough to continue reading it till the end. Sometimes I even find the story depressing... but I don't regret reading it.


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