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Past Discussions of Group Reads > Memoirs of A Geisha--For Those Who Have Finished

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message 1: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
Please use this thread to talk about the book as a whole after you have finished.

Some general starting questions:

Did you like or dislike the book? Did you like the ending? Favorite characters? Favorite quotes? Did you like the author's style? Were you confused by anything in the book? etc.

Feel free to post any discussion questions that are more specific to the book once you have finished. The moderators and discussion leader will try and facilitate the discussion but since everybody's reading schedule/life schedule are different, they may not be able to do so at the beginning of the month. So, any discussion questions are welcome! :)


message 2: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
I absolutely LOVED this book when I read it. I thought Chiyo/Sayuri was just such a strong and memorable character. I was seriously enthralled with the culture and the life of geishas. I even went out and bought Geisha: A Lifeto read more about the subject. I haven't read it yet but I plan to. I really loved learning about a new culture and something I really didn't know much about..and I was so impressed that a MAN was able to write such a convincing story with a female character and in a female world!

Did anyone else find themselves really interested in the geisha or the culture after reading this? Did you feel that Golden was able to portray all of this in an authentic way?


message 3: by Kayla (last edited Nov 05, 2010 06:49PM) (new)

Kayla | 604 comments Jamie wrote: "and I was so impressed that a MAN was able to write such a convincing story with a female character and in a female world!"

I saw the movie before reading the book and I remember being very surprised to find out that the book had been written by a man when I went to look it up.

I thought the book was so great. It was very well written and descriptive and I was completely pulled into the world of the geishas.

I'm not sure if I knew this when I read the book or not, but I think it's interesting that Golden had actually interviewed a retired geisha as part of his research for the novel.


message 4: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
I still need to see the movie! Thanks for reminding me. I really was pulled into that world as well. I had put off reading that book for a looong time and I wish I hadn't because it captivated me. I also read that he interviewed a retired geisha. I love when an author has really done their research!

How was the movie, anyways?


message 5: by Kayla (new)

Kayla | 604 comments The movie's great! I actually had a hard time deciding whether I liked the movie or the book more (I ended up leaning slightly toward the book just because, as is usually the case, the book had more detail).


message 6: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
I was looking for some good discussion questions for this book and found this one:

How do Japanese ideas about eroticism and sexuality differ from Western ones? Does the Japanese ideal of femininity differ from ours?


message 7: by Megan (new)

Megan Jamie-

I also put off reading this book for a very long time, but once I started I couldn't put it down. I absolutely loved it, and it definitely ranks as one of my favorites. I am not really sure why I put it off for so long.
I was really engrossed in the life of a geisha and would love to read more. I would especially love to read a non-fiction.
As for the movie, I watched it shortly after reading the book. The book was waaayyyyy better than the movie. I thought the movie was a little slow in places where I never thought the book drug on. But I do think the movie did a good job of capturing the essence of the book where many movies converted from books fall short.


message 8: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
I think I put it off for so long because of the hype. I don't know why I do it. I think I just assume I'll be disappointed because it's overly hyped!

I'll let you know how Geisha: A Life is when I read it!


message 9: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jenna_marie58) I read this a while ago so I forgot a lot of what happened, but I remember I really enjoyed it and thought the characters were super interesting. I meant to watch the movie when I was done reading it, but I still haven't.. maybe I'll get it soon though. It will probably be better now than it would have been if I watched it earlier because the book isn't fresh in my mind to compare it to.


message 10: by Tami (new)

Tami | 3103 comments Mod
I watched the movie when it first came out and remember really liking it, though some parts seemed a bit confusing. I read the book recently (within the last year) and really enjoyed it too. It went in much more detail than the movie, which is normal and there were no parts that confused me. I like how Pumpkins jealousy was protrayed in the movie better than the book. It almost seemed to come out of nowhere in the book.

I don't know much if anything about the culture even after seeing the movie and finally reading the book. I was surprised that the book was fiction, it felt like an actual memoir.


message 11: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
Tami--I felt that way too when you mentioned that it felt like an actual memoir! I'm interested to see how the movie is especially in terms of Pumpkin's jealousy. I thought it came through in the book but I agree..it did kind of seem like it came out of nowhere.

Jenna-- I tend to like to watch the movie far apart from reading the book for that reason as well. I know I will sit there and pick the movie apart if not.


L (Sniffly Kitty) @Jamie Geisha: A Life was not bad although it was a true memoir and is subject to the issues of life not being quite as correctly paced as we like books to be.

As for Memoirs of a Geisha, I thought it was pretty well written despite the controversies with it. I don't really remember Pumpkin's jealousy being surprising although that may be because I read the book after watching the movie.

Sniffly Kitty


message 13: by Tami (new)

Tami | 3103 comments Mod
I read the book after the movie too, it just didn't seem to be hinted at in the book then Bam! In the movie there were little things that sort of added up to it to me. Maybe I am just a bit more dense while reading things. Other books to movies I have had the same experience. :)


message 14: by Tahleen (new)

Tahleen I read this book a really long time ago too... but I do remember liking it a lot. It was one of those that I read and really enjoy the entire time I read it, though it took me a while.

What did you all think of the artist? Do you think he cared about Sarayu very much? I can't remember his name, sorry—I just remember being struck by him as a character.


message 15: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (bookwormlove666) | 6 comments I read this book in 9th grade for a book report and I love love loved it! I plan to read it again by the end of the month, if I can get my parents to bring it up to me this weekend I'll start then. I love the movie (I literally watch it at least once a month) I want to read more about Geishas, but I never actually went through with looking for any books about it. I'll review again when I actually re-read it so I remember it all again =)


message 16: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (amazingact21) This book exceeded my expectations, by far! I couldn't believe how in-depth the cultural storyline was. I'll be the first to admit, I'm not very knowledgable about Japanese culture, but after reading this book I wanted to learn more.

The relationships in this book were what really amazed me. I felt for Sayuri's connection to every character, and a lot of them broke my heart. I think Sayuri's relationship with her older sister, Satsu was so bittersweet.

My favorite character in the novel was Pumpkin. I know she was jealous and resentful, but her evolution in the story was incredible. She was just in the line of Hatsumom's fire and got pulled under.

I haven't seen the film yet, but I really want to. I want to see how the characters are portrayed in comparison to the novel.


message 17: by Andrew (new)

Andrew (andrewburgess) "How do Japanese ideas about eroticism and sexuality differ from Western ones? Does the Japanese ideal of femininity differ from ours?"

There were definitely a few areas that made it apparent how different areas of the body were erotic to the Japanese that were less so than to Westerners.
Japanese men, as a rule, feel about a woman's neck and throat the same way that men in the West might feel about a woman's legs


I also noticed numerous occasions where revealing bare skin was used strategically, such as when pouring tea and revealing the underside of the arm or some similar aspect. I find it interesting how such techniques were used and passed on in such a formalized manner. I can think of no such counterpart for Western culture.

I found it incredibly amusing when the explanation of the "split peach" hairstyle was explained. I would venture that Japanese culture values a sort of subtle and innuendo focused view to eroticism, which seems much less apparent in Western culture.

I'd say for both cultures, there seems to be a valuation for submissive women, but it seems that for Japanese culture, the submissiveness seems more focused on deference and humbleness, rather than the "seen but not heard" tendencies of Western culture during that time period.


message 18: by Madge (new)

Madge (madge_the_bibliomaniac) I absolutely fell in LOVE with this book! I had wanted to read it for a few years, especially after a friend let me borrow the movie. I thought the movie was amazing, so I knew that the book had to be mind blowing.

This was one of the best books I have ever read. It painted an unbelievably realistic picture and I almost felt like I was right there with Sayuri throughout everything she went through. I had to force myself to stop reading to go eat or sleep, and when I approached the final pages, I wanted the story to continue.

I have rarely come across a book that I wanted to give more than 4 or 5 stars, but had it been possible, I would have given this one at least 6 or 7.


message 19: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
I felt the same way Madison! It was just impossible to pull myself away. I really never thought I would like it that much. I am very much impressed by this novel! What a debut! I'm interested to see if he comes out with anything else!


message 20: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Lauren (ashleyllauren) Oh gosh, I adored this book. I think Golden did a fantastic job -like others mentioned, it is definitely astonishing to me that an American man wrote it. The part that impressed me the most is that I really got the feeling this was written originally in Japanese and then translated. What I mean is that it just seemed so poetic - he slipped in gorgeous imagery that I feel like the Japanese language is famous for. I definitely extend my kudos to Golden!

I need to see the movie - asap!

As far as the question about the differences in Japanese v. Western sexuality - it's hard to say. So much of this took place in the past that I'm not even sure how to assess American sexuality during the time of the depression. I guess when you think about the changes in sexuality that happened in the '20s - it didn't sound like that kind of revolution hit Japan during that time; at least according to this book.

Like Andrew mentioned, Golden definitely made mention of all sorts of different keys that the geishas used to arouse men, but they were all so subtle. I feel like these little gestures would have been lost in the American culture. Leaving a small line of skin exposed between the white make-up and the hairline? I don't know if Americans would have the patience to notice this. Toward the end of the book, when Americans were in Gion, I felt like we could see that change as well; Pumpkin became popular becuase of her crassness - something that I would definitely say is more distinctive to Americans than Japanese.


message 21: by Jessie (new)

Jessie (Jessie08) | 128 comments I wish I liked this book more, but it just didn't do it for me. I felt it was a bit slow at points and I found towards the end I was just ready for it to be done. I think my largest problem with the book was the fact that nearly every choice Sayuri made in her life was to bring her closer to the Chairman. I guess the little feminist in me found this annoying.

However, I enjoyed learning more about geishas. I had no idea how much schooling they did, or how much ritual there was involved in being a geisha. I also was really unaware how in some ways the geisha life at least early on is somewhat a type of slavery.


message 22: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly (kimberlywithat) | 2140 comments I just finished this book a couple of days ago. I really enjoyed it! I've always been interested in Japanese culture, and I loved learning more about it.

My only real complaint is that the author kept switching back and forth between American terms (such as Mr.) and Japanese Honorifics. I felt like he should have chosen one and stuck with it. There also wasn't much explanation to the honorifics, I already knew them but someone who had no knowledge of them reading the book might have been confused.


message 23: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay (lindsayl) Kimberly, I agree with your complaint. However, I think that was Aurther Golden's way of familiarizing the reader with the Japanese terms.

But like you, I loved it. Definitely one of my favorites.


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