**spoiler alert** I've read this book 3 times now and each time I pick it up, I forget how much I disliked reading it the last time. On the surface, t...more**spoiler alert** I've read this book 3 times now and each time I pick it up, I forget how much I disliked reading it the last time. On the surface, the book presents an interesting subject. The life of a geisha is fascinating, especially to a westerner who has little knowledge of Japanese culture. Golden does do a fine job describing the day to day rituals, life and culture of a Kyoto geisha in the 1930's.
However, once you get past the exotic subject matter, the plot proves itself to be particularly trite and inane. The Chairman comforts Sayrui when she is very young and distressed; she then falls in love with him after this brief encounter and spends the next 20 years or so of her life attempting to find some way to be with him. Her devotion remains strong, despite the fact that the Chairman never shows any inclination that he cares for her at all or that he even realizes that the talented geisha Sayuri is the little girl that he once gave his handkerchief to. She is an intelligent and resourceful woman, yet she can see no other way to be happy in her life than to be the object of the Chairman's affection.
Golden ties up the novel with a neat little bow. After Sayuri has betrayed Nobu - a man who has for years proven that he will respect and care for her - the Chairman confesses that he has always loved Sayuri and that he is the reason why Mameha decided to become Sayuri's older sister. He becomes Sayuri's danna and convinces her to give up the life of a geisha, isolating Sayuri from the only life and people she has ever known. The whole story feels implausible.
While Golden attempts to write in a very flowery and elegant style, it comes across as forced and clunky and is ultimately distracting from the story. (less)
I will admit that I didn't actually finish this book, but by 3/4 of the way through, I was totally bored with it. The first few chapters of this book...moreI will admit that I didn't actually finish this book, but by 3/4 of the way through, I was totally bored with it. The first few chapters of this book were actually interesting in that they discusses the way that the first settlers in American spoke, how that gradually began to differ from the way people spoke in English and how different it is from modern American speech. However, after these sections, the book simply introduced a historical period or a new technology and basically listed the words that entered our language because of it. I found this to be repetitive and quite dull. While Bryson attempted to make this more interesting by adding anecdotes about the people of the historical period that he was dealing with, these anecdotes seemed only tangentially related to the subject matter of the book; at times it seemed to me that Bryson had completely forgotten that he was writing a book on language.(less)
**spoiler alert** First off, I absolutely loved this book. LOVED it. Set in an Italian monastery in the 14th century, the main plot of the book revolv...more**spoiler alert** First off, I absolutely loved this book. LOVED it. Set in an Italian monastery in the 14th century, the main plot of the book revolves around a series of murders. The visiting William of Baskerville - an English Franciscan - is the story's Sherlock Holmes figure, armed with empiricism and the philosophies of Roger Bacon and Aristotle. The novel is narrated by William's scribe, Adso of Melk. The story goes beyond the simple mystery, however, and largely discusses the politics of the Roman Catholic Church, medieval heresy, the nature of truth and the danger of knowledge. This heavy discourse, coupled with the suspense of the mystery, make the book absolutely fascinating. Of course, the Medieval period fascinates me, so of course I'm going to enjoy this book.
The only complaint I have is that the subplot with Adso and the young village woman (she has no name in the book) seemed really forced to me. The writing of that section was gorgeous - the prose of Adso's narration was mixed with quotes from the Song of Soloman and other texts - but I really cannot understand the girl's attraction to Adso or why she got involved with him at all. This was not a hugely significant subplot though (unlike in the movie) so I didn't mind it too much.
The prose is a little dense, but totally rewarding to get through.(less)
Surprisingly engaging and informative for such a narrow subject matter. While I found the large sections on the spice trade to be a tad on the dull si...moreSurprisingly engaging and informative for such a narrow subject matter. While I found the large sections on the spice trade to be a tad on the dull side, the information on the culinary, medical and religious uses for spices in Medieval Europe was quite fascinating. (less)