by Arthur Golden
The popular image of a geisha is that of a high-class prostitute. In Memoirs, we learn that geisha means "artisan" and that they are more analogous to concubines or trophy wives. Still, they often had very difficult lives; this is especially true for Sayuri, the fictional geisha whose memoirs Golden has written. We hear about her awful childhood and difficult training, the delicate social maneuvering required to remain in good standing with customers and to outwit a cruel older geisha who is bent on destroying Sayuri, and the pain of a life doomed to be lived without love.
I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways it's a very good historical novel with an engrossing plot and interesting details about geisha's lives behind the scenes. On the other hand, it often felt like the first novel that it is -- plot elements often work out too neatly or just in time, and the eventual romance with the chairman seemed flat. Still, I would recommend this book.
copyright © 2000 John Regehr