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Archive 08-19 GR Discussions > Memoirs of a Geisha

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message 1: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2563 comments Mod
Starting a thread for this book


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I love this book.


message 3: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments I love this book too! I read it for the first time in high school...about four years ago. I ordered a copy and am waiting for it to arrive. I'm hoping it comes in time for me to brush up on details and join the conversation...


message 4: by Mansee (new)

Mansee It was an interesting read...I also liked the movie ...there is a surreal quality about it.


message 5: by Viola (new)

Viola | 1014 comments Random! My husband was an extra in the movie. I still remember the day he told me about getting that job. He was doing extra work to make some money, and he had gotten random jobs here and there. One day he said, "Guess what book they are making into a movie?" I was so excited and totally guessed right. He also got to meet Zhang Ziyi on set.


message 6: by Megan (new)

Megan Underwood | 267 comments Viola - That is fun.

I also loved this book. One of my favorites.


message 7: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine (enchantingdragon) | 110 comments Love this book. Looking forward to hearing the discussions!

Vi- I still remember when you told me. I bought the movie just to watch Yun's scene (and Zhang Ziyi of course) Still jealous he got to meet her.


message 8: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments Hey Chicks...I loved this book about a chapter or two into it...what made you really like (or dislike) this book? Also, do you think Sayuri was better off as a geisha than she would have been in her fishing village?


message 9: by Brittany (new)

Brittany (missbrittany) | 336 comments LOVE this book and the movie. One of few I have purchased and kept. Need to read it again!


message 10: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Hey Chicks...I loved this book about a chapter or two into it...what made you really like (or dislike) this book? Also, do you think Sayuri was better off as a geisha than she would have been in her fishing village?"

I just finished this book last night. What a facinating story! I loved the writing, and the whole narration of her story just sucked me right in. But truthfully, I'm still feeling a little strange and sad about the whole geisha culture. And for this reason, I am almost thinking that Sayuri might have been better off in her fishing village (had her mother not died) than as a geisha. I'm not sure that becoming a geisha is all that wonderful of a thing for a Japanese woman. Hopefully the status of women in Japan is different now. But that is just my thoughts.


message 11: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) As western women we tend to value our freedom and so its not that easy to put ourselves into a Geisha's shoes and walk around in them.

Having said that, I do see a huge amount of beauty and cuture within the rituals of a Geisha life and it would bring peace of mind to know you are of value to the house and therefore will be protected.

It depends on what you value, love? freedom? protecion? beauty?

- the difficulty is that sayuri didn't choose this life initially. If choice were an element I'd have said she did well as a Geisha, however she had few other options and that doesn't sit well. I believe modern day Geisha's in Japan are largely ceremonial and its a life choice. Choosing beauty and ritual as a way of life is far different from being thrust into a rigid behavioural structure unwillingly. - I could imagine that many women might still choose this option (indeed there are probably many modern examples!).

Ally


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I will agree that Saryuri didn't pick to be a Geisha. I read this in the fall and I loved it. I love the movie too. I saw the movie before I read the book.


message 13: by Viola (new)

Viola | 1014 comments I wonder if there are any Japanese chicks here. I'd love to hear their perspective. I think that this book has informed many Americans about geishas in Japan. I know that for me this book opened my eyes to what a geisha is. But many geishas don't agree with this portrayal.

I myself don't really know what to believe. But I think that there are some who would argue that geishas are NOT glorified prostitutes. Also, I've heard that being a geisha is supposed to be considered a great thing. But, in any case, it is a dying profession in Japan.

Still, whether or not the portrayal is accurate, I still love this book.


message 14: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Sotto (samanthasotto) | 24 comments I read this book a few years ago and fell in love with it from the first page. Fascinating read!


message 15: by Collin (new)

Collin | 197 comments I'm loving this book...only a little over half-way done, so I skipped reading most of the comments so far. I better get busy reading!


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I never thought of geisha as glorified prostitutes.


message 17: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I've read this book a couple of times and love it.

I think her life was better as a geisha for a couple of reasons. 1) What would have become of her had she stayed at home? Both of her parents died shortly after she left. 2) She did, to some degree, choose to be a geisha. She could have remained a maid, but after she met the Chairman, she decided the only way to make her life mean anything was to become a geisha.

An interesting little coincidence- last night I was at the library and came across Autobiography of a Geisha, which I would have picked up to read alongside this discuss, but I have plenty of other books demanding my attention.


message 18: by Irene (new)

Irene | 4030 comments True, Sayuri had no choice about becoming a Geisha, but I got the impression that women in pre-war Japan had no choice at all, geisha or wife or anything. Although the life was hard, especially prior to her professional success, it did afford her an education and a level of independence she would not have had in a traditional fishing village. Her sister was the one who would have been better off had she stayed in the village.

I read this book several years ago and enjoyed it greatly. I was surprised how well a male author captured a female voice. I enjoyed the exotic setting. But, more so, I thought the author enabled me to identify with the main character. Her voice matured. I could get inside her skin. He allowed me to connect emotionally with Sayuri.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I was surprised as well on how well it was written. There is also Geisha: A Life as well which is a different perspective. I remember when the movie came out and the girl who played Saryuri as a young girl was Chinese instead of Japanese and people were not happy about that.


message 20: by Megan (new)

Megan I read this a while ago, but absolutely loved it. It felt very much like a true story and it was often difficult to remember that I was reading fiction. That is the mark of a good book. Anyway, since reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I have wanted to read a non-fiction book about Geishas. As was previously mentioned, I have more than enough books already on my to read shelf, but I still would love to read a true account. Has anyone already read one that they would recommend?


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I think Geisha: A Life is a nonfiction and has been recommended in the past.


message 22: by Megan (new)

Megan Jayme(the ghost reader) wrote: "I think Geisha: A Life is a nonfiction and has been recommended in the past."

I think that the women who wrote Geisha:A Life was actually interviewed for Memoirs of a Geisha. She was unhappy with the depiction of a geisha so she wrote her own story.


message 23: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments I agree that this book felt very real. It would be fascinating to read a non-fiction book about Geisha life. Must look into one of the ones mentioned!

I think Sayuri would have been able to forge a life for herself in either circumstance (whether in her fishing village, or as a Geisha). Her determination and strength are rare traits...and I believe that had she and her sister reunited and made it home, they would have found some decent means of supporting themselves.


message 24: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments How was the day Sayuri met Mr. Tanaka the best and worst day of her life?


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments He is the one who sold her right?
If that is the case, it is the best day of her life because she was able to make a life for herself outside of her village. Also, the worst day of her life because she didn't want to leave her family for that is all she knew of the world at that time.


message 26: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "How was the day Sayuri met Mr. Tanaka the best and worst day of her life?"

I think the day she met Mr. Tanaka was just a major turning point in her life. Her entire life and future was changed by this man. Who knows how her life would have gone had she not been sold to the geisha house. His selling her gave her experiences she would not have otherwise had any chance of having, but it also made her lose all contact forever with not only her parents but her sister also.


message 27: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments How do you feel that Japanese culture and the Western culture differ and compare when it comes to sexuality and femininity and eroticism?


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments Good question, I think the Japanese culture sees more beauty than we do. I think Western culture specifically US see beauty as more of a physical thing rather than the Japanese value beauty in a different way. As for sexuality and eroticism, Japanese culture as far as I understand it, doesn't need to see a woman naked to be aroused. The men in the book used their imagination more. US men in the story need to see the woman completely naked.
US see femininity as the weaker sex. Geisha learned to use their femininity to their advantage and embrace it. I hope that answers the question.


message 29: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Jayme: I'd agree with most of that assessment, but think that both nationalities saw women as a weaker sex at the time. However, I completely agree that the geisha learned to use their femininity to their advantage.


message 30: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "How do you feel that Japanese culture and the Western culture differ and compare when it comes to sexuality and femininity and eroticism?"

Japanese culture in the early 1900's (the time of this story) or Japanese culture now? Because I really hope that the Japanese culture described in this story is not how women are treated currently in Japan. When I was a teenager my family had Japanese exchange students (teenage girls) stay with our family on 3 separate summers. All of these girls were independent, educated, and worldly. My family kept in touch with them via letters in the years after their visits, and they all went on to attend college, have careers, get married, have families, etc. They were not like how Sayuri was portrayed as a teen.

And as to sexuality and eroticism, the comparison is more between present day and between the early 1900's. I am guessing that present day Japanese woman are quite different from the women in this story.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I took it to mean Japan culture as it was in the story. @Carrie, I think that both US and Japanese culture viewed women as the weaker sex for that time period. I just think the Japanese culture revere their women more for that time period. It's kinda hard to explain. Even though both culture treat women as a weaker sex, the Japanese culture views the world of women as a complete mystery. Men and women's daily rituals of living were separated. Even as a married Japanese couple, their interactions were more reserved. That's the impression I got from the book and the time period of the book.


message 32: by E.B. (new)

E.B. Loan (EBLoan) | 4 comments I read this a few years back. It was awesome. So interesting...


message 33: by Viola (new)

Viola | 1014 comments Julie wrote: "How do you feel that Japanese culture and the Western culture differ and compare when it comes to sexuality and femininity and eroticism?"

Okay, this is my impression of today's culture, and that's exactly what it is, an impression. I suspect that it will offend.

My impression is that Japanese culture as it relates to women and sexuality is weird and completely male-dominated. Definitely much more so than America. I think their women are held to a higher standard of being "pure" and their men are more depraved. I find their "maid cafes" really weird, though probably interesting enough for me to visit if I were a tourist. They sell porn in vending machines. Also, if you've seen anime (not the ones targeted at children), there always seems to be random sexual visuals or innuendos that seem to serve no purpose. Then, there are the "hostess" clubs... Come to think of it, modern day hostesses at "hostess" clubs reminds me of geishas. I don't have the stats right now, but in general, I think that women's rights and feminism in Japan hasn't progressed nearly as much as in the States.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I do watch Anime and I am not offended at the Anime comment. Though I do like to point out that though animated, Anime shouldn't be mistaken for cartoons. Anime is a form of entertainment that has many different genre types. It's like going to the movies and having the choice of watching a horror, comedy, family orientated or adult orientated movie. Yes, the sexual inuendos in some of the Anime are random. I think they are more open about sexuality in their entertainment than the US. I just wanted to point that out because Anime is very misunderstood in the US as far as what it is.


message 35: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Jayme: I see your point. Would you say that the roles have reversed over time? ...the US becoming more restrained and reverent of women and sexuality, while Japan has become extremely open minded?


message 36: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm not quite to the point of putting into words my thoughts on this questions of Japanese vs. American women and sexuality, but I wonder, what part do you think geishas had in shaping modern Japan's views of sexuality? To me it seemed like the tea houses were held in high esteem- if you could afford it. The only comparison I can think of in the US would be like a brothel. To me the difference is the sense of shame. Going to a tea house meant you were a powerful man, whereas here, people slink into brothels... How does that impact the views of sexuality and the way women are viewed?


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments Carrie wrote: "Jayme: I see your point. Would you say that the roles have reversed over time? ...the US becoming more restrained and reverent of women and sexuality, while Japan has become extremely open minded?"

I think that the US culture has become very censored when it comes to sexuality. Where the Japanese culture is more open about sexuality. I can't really say that this is how the US think and how the Japanese think because not all people of cultures think the same. It has to do with the individual.


message 38: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments Here is another topic of discussion for us...Discuss Sayuri's relationship with the Chairman. Did they love eachother? Can love exist between a geisha and her danna or does the unbalanced nature of their relationship make love impossible?


message 39: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Julie wrote: "Here is another topic of discussion for us...Discuss Sayuri's relationship with the Chairman. Did they love eachother? Can love exist between a geisha and her danna or does the unbalanced nature o..."

I would definitely say love is possible. There are people who love outside their marriages in every part of the world. In settings like this one, where many (if not most) marriages are arranged, I would think that it's even more likely, as spouses would (in all probability) be reluctant of their partner. I wouldn't even say that the relationship would be all that unbalanced... After all, would a danna not support a geisha in nearly the same way that he supports his wife at home? The difference, of course, is that the geisha must come second; but both women are virtually at his mercy financially, and neither are free, in most cases, to choose their own husband/danna. I think it's been mentioned several times that geisha were highly esteemed women, so there wouldn't be a huge gap in their social status, beyond the fact that she's the woman in the relationship, and therefore already considered an inferior. Still, those factors did not stop couples from loving one another in other places and times in history. (Think of how women were treated in the middle ages, say, or even in pre-feminism America.) At the end of the day, no matter what our social title, or how great our wealth and power, we're all human, and humans have a great need for love.


message 40: by Viola (new)

Viola | 1014 comments I believe that love is all encompassing and all inclusive. There are many different types of love and love can span many different people. Thus, yes, love can exist between a geisha and her danna. I think Carrie made a wonderful point about women in pre-feminism times, which isn't all that long ago. Before feminism, men were responsible for taking care of women, of protecting them. Danna is responsible for taking care of his geisha and to oversee her well-being in addition to the financial responsibility. So, there must be lots of love in such a relationship. Okay, here's a terrible analogy, but -- people absolutely love their dogs, and yet dogs have no right to their life. Dogs are owned by humans. Okay, I know, I know, that's a terrible analogy (I hope you don't take it the wrong way), but my point is the of course love can span across different hierarchies.


message 41: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
Viola, interesting analogy about dogs. But you are right, many dog owners truly love their dogs, and dogs love their owners, but it is in no way an equal relationship, and as you said the dogs have no right to their life.


message 42: by Irene (new)

Irene | 4030 comments I suppose that we have to define "love" before we can answer this question. The way modern Americans use the word is not how it has always been used. If by love, we mean mutuality, then I am not sure this culture of the novel would have even expected that. If by "love", we mean self-sacrificing service, than it was not present in the relationship. Both were benefiting from the relationship. If by love, we mean that the interaction leaves us with a positive internal feeling, than, yes, they may have loved each other. But, by this definition, I absolutely love Snicker bars, a pretty shallow understanding of the word.


message 43: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments Love, in my opinion, is a living and breathing thing. It's not a fleeting thought or feeling. It's something that has to be nurtured to survive. It requires patience and work, but the fact that you get it as well as give makes it rewarding.

I like the dog analogy. It's unorthodox, but it works. I don't think that two people need to be of equal status in order to maintain love. I mean, come on, Cinderella wasn't exactly royalty, you know?

Love is dependent on how two people treat one another, not in how the rest of the world views them. For example: (continuing with the Cinderella theme) I'm sure that there are people in the castle who'd like to toss the "undeserving" peasant girl out. I would imagine there are obstacles to her "fitting in" (education, manners, behavior, etc.). But so long as her prince is kind and understanding (probably sacrificing his reputation among the other royals for marrying so far below his status), Cinderella is going to work her butt off to make him proud. After a while she might even lose that silly peasent accent. Both of them are going to give as much as they get. Otherwise the love will die, and Cinderella will find herself scrubbing floors again.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I think Sayuri loved the Chairman. I think the Chairman loved her and at the end, they did end up together and have a child. I think that takes a level of commitment. I think the love they had developed. The Chairman came across as a introverted and quiet man who was slow to warm up to someone. Once, the relationship developed, i do think both were able to give and receive love.


message 45: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 391 comments What was your favorite part of the book? Why?


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments Hmmm tough one. I think my favorite parts of the book were when Sayuri spent time with Mameha and the older geisha adopted Sayuri. I really liked the relationship they had. Even though I did question some of Mameha's actions ie: cutting Sayuri's leg so she could meet Dr. Crab.


message 47: by Collin (new)

Collin | 197 comments Just finished the book earlier today, and really liked it.

One of my favorite parts was closer to the end when they were playing the game that had one true story and one lie that others were supposed to guess. Nobu was getting so irritated with Pumpkin, and I found myself giggling while reading that whole scene.

I still wonder what happened to her sister, if she survived.

I also wonder whether or not Sayuri and the Chairman had a child. I do believed they loved eachother, and I was glad to finally read about their "together" piece of the story. After a while, I think I had all but given up on Sayuri getting what she wanted most.


message 48: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Chaney (carrie_chaney) | 148 comments I wondered about the sister too. I think if I could change one thing about the story, I'd add some kind of explanation of how her life turned out...if she and Sayuri ever reunited, etc. It wouldn't have to be a HUGE scene. Anything from a letter to hearsay from another minor character.


message 49: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (new)

Sheila  | 3485 comments Mod
I feel like Carrie and Collin. I also wish that some detail had been given about what happened to the sister.

So, is everyone else horrified by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I feel so bad for all the Japanese people. They are talking about millions without food, water or power. So many people dead and missing, and now the pending nuclear power reactor meltdowns. Just seeing the news on the internet makes me so sad.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4844 comments I couldn't believe when I heard it on the radio on Friday. I haven't been hearing much about the damage report.


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