Liz Lynch's Reviews > Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
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Sep 09, 2007

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Read in September, 2007

Like eating fancy dessert at a gourmet restaurant, Memoirs of a Geisha is beautiful, melts lightly off the tongue and will be forgotten shortly after it's done. The language is strikingly lovely, and Golden paints a remarkable picture of a time and place.

If you're looking to learn something deep about the psychology of Japanese culture, or meet nuanced characters, then I'd steer you elsewhere. The story only skims the top of the more complicated aspects of a Japan in decline, focusing mostly on a genteel lifestyle that probably seems more appealing from the outside. There's a way in which the book, written by a man and a westerner, is slightly fetishistic, but less so than you might imagine.

Another reader suggested that perhaps the superficiality of the story is intentional, and that the book, in a way, resembles a geisha. Beautiful and eager to please, yet too distant to really learn much from and ultimately little more than a beautiful, well-crafted object to be appreciated. If that's the case, Arthur Golden is remarkably clever, and I applaud him. If it's not the case, the book remains very pretty and an easy read.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Norman (new) - added it

Norman Ohira This book like other books such as Oshin is very interesting because it describes the character of Japanese women eager to live a life even bitter. The story in it teaches us about the meaning of the struggle for life, never give up and thank God. told us not to despair.


Michelle Unfortunately as a person holding a degree in writing, I have to totally disagree with this review. This book has a depth that doesn't focus so much on Japanese culture/history, but on the individual's feelings and character development. I also have to say that while this reviewer may be able to easily forget such a book, most people I know who have read it say it will be one of the stories that will stay with them forever.

I do think the idea of the story seeming superficial to resemble a geisha is interested, but probably not accurate.


Melissa Liz, I agree completely with your assessment. I read this book around the time of the movie's release and was at a loss to understand what people found so life altering.


message 4: by Tj (last edited Aug 17, 2010 06:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tj P Michelle, I completely agree with you. For one; it is very well written, no one is claiming that's not the case, at least that I have seen. I also think the characters were very well developed. For two; I'm not really sure how a person could not be affected at least somewhat by this girl's story, unless you are just disinterested with the genre or subject matter. Then that I could understand. Though, if that were the case, then why read it in the first place..? I am just surprised when I see people have a negative opinion of this book. I know many people who have read it, some very literate as well (more than I for sure), and I don't know a single one who hasn't recommended it or loved it.


Glitterfairy "There's a way in which the book, written by a man and a westerner, is slightly fetishistic" - AGREE!!! Oh man, I can't believe I forgot to write that in my own review. This aspect really bothered me as I was reading the book, and is one of the prime reasons I preferred the film, which allowed the women to maintain their dignity.


message 6: by Art (new) - rated it 4 stars

Art Lowell Read it some years back. Strongest memory is that Hatsumomo is one of the best villains I've met.


Debbie I too cannot agree with this reviewer and having read this book several years ago still remember it well and consider it one of the most atmospheric books that I have read the author captures the essence of the geisha any the writing is beautiful


Jamie I disagree that the book is superficial in any way though I do think that in many ways the pace and tone of the book resemble the mystery and intrigue surrounding the life of a Geisha.


ميساوي missaoui missaoui want to read it in french if there any good transilation


BuffCrone I read this book when it first came out and still remember the characters vividly. It motivated me to travel to Japan and visit Kyoto. I wonder if the original reviewer read it with some preconceived notions about the author?


Omaima I believe this book does focus on Japanese culture. it shows the darkside of being a giesha which a lot of people keep as a secret. Also it doesn't just talk about the life of a giesha it talks about the training, traditions and etiquette a girl is suppose to have to become a giesha. The author does an amazing job with his description of traditional Japanese giesha kimonos and locations in Japan.


Mahrooz I am reading memoirs of a Geisha right now and I've done about %30. One thing I didn't get about Geishas is that if they also use use their body? I mean if they have sex with the costumers?


LAURA K. Since you mentioned that you would "steer you elsewhere" for a deeper psychology of Japanese culture, what would you recommend? I found that this book was amazing, but barely scratched the surface.


LAURA K. It isn't intended to be so much about the culture as Sayori's culture shock transitioning from a fishing village to a big city and what was almost an entirely different culture.


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