Paperback, 434 pages.
Read from September 28 to October 14, 2015.
Okay, so I’m 10 years behind this bandwagon. I don’t know why, but when I was a lot younger I had a thing against reading the books that became popular. Stupid, I know. And really book-snobby of me as well. While there are still some popular book titles that I am still not interested in reading, this one continued to peak my interest and remained on my to-read list. I also tried really hard to get an original copy of this book that didn’t have the movie cover on it and I succeeded! Movie covers are lamesauce.
Chiyo, or as the reader will come to know her, Sayuri, is a young girl living in an impoverished fishing village in pre-war Japan. After her mother passes away, her aging father sends her and her sister Satsu away with a strange man called Mr.Tanaka. He appears to be kind man but shortly after joining Mr. Tanaka, Chiyo is separated from her sister. Chiyo, is a remarkably beautiful girl with grey/silver colored eyes so she is sent off to become a geisha, while her poor sister with her plain looks is sent to become a prostitute. Poor Chiyo is so young that she doesn’t understand what has happened to her and her sister or the new world she is living. Chiyo is required to work and serve the geisha’s in the okiya, the geisha house that owns her until she is old enough to even apprentice to become a geisha. Sadly, the one that she serves, Hatsumomo, is cruel, manipulative, and vindictive. Despite the effort that Hatsumomo goes to in order to destroy her reputation, Sayuri is taken under the wing of one of Hatsumomo’s rivals, Mameha, an even more successful and intelligent geisha. As Sayuri begins to make her way as a geisha, she is never truly happy, knowing that the one man she desires she can never have.
The narrative is written in first person, as Sayuri recounts her time as a geisha. During those years of hardship she learns the complicated ways of a geisha, and to hide that poor girl she use to be.
Arthur Golden is remarkable author who studied at Harvard College where he received an art degree, specializing in Japanese art. He later earned an MA in Japanese history and learned Mandarin Chinese while he was at it. He visited Japan and did extensive research in preparations for the novel. After writing an draft, he actually met with a someone who was a geisha, in which he realized that he needed to revise his novel substantially. After two drafts in third person, the final draft was written in first person and it was finally the book he was looking for.
The historical facts and traditions of the geisha are remarkably interesting and Golden managed to write a novel that has amazingly captivating characters with an equally as inciting historical plot. While I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this novel, I was taken back by the quality of the writing and the amount of work that Golden put into creating this novel. The characters and the story also stuck with me after I finished the novel, making me wish that I could go back and enter that world again.
I couldn’t help but feel sad for Sayuri’s sister. You’re not given too much detail about her once Sayuri is grown, but what a tragic and horrible life! Torn from everything you know and love to be pimped out and forced to have sex for money. While being a geisha is fancy word for a very expensive prostitute in a way, Sayuri still had more opportunities than her sister. While geisha’s were never truly independent, at least they were lived a reasonably comfortable lifestyle and were moderately respected.
Overall, this is great novel that is accessible to all readers. Now I just need to watch the movie. Yes, I know. I’m about 10 years behind on that one too.