Saturday, April 15, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

I picked up a copy of the book at Half-Price Books during one of their big extra 20% sales, but it was another year or so before I got around to reading it. I included this on my reading list at beginning of the year.

When I packed for my week in Spain, I took several books, this being one of them. I decided on this book because on the plane from Dallas to London, I noticed that the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, was being shown on the return flight. I wanted to have this read before I watched the movie.

This is the story of a young woman, trained to be a geisha. This tells the story of her experiences and the rituals involved in the world of geishas. This is fascinating in that it describes an experience so foreign to most of us. These women, they traveled on this path as a means to arrive at a better life in a society that provided women limited opportunities. They lived in luxury that would have not been available to them otherwise. However, still their lives were completely dictated by the actions and desires of the men they served.

A scene is described in which the woman, years later, is introduced in New York as a former geisha. She said she can tell she's looked at oddly, and can tell that she is being reagarded as a prostitute. But she so accurately points out, were her actions so different than the wealthy wife judging her? The geisha's actions are more formal and precise, the intent more obvious, but so many women follow a similar path. They paint their faces, dress a certain way, act a certain way, all in their attempts to gain the company and adoration of certain men, men with money and prestige, men who will care for them.

Despite the cover quite clearly stating that this book is a "novel" I read the entire thing under the assumption that it was supposed to be a true story. My own fault, I wasn't paying attention to the cover, I was thrown by the use of the word "memoir" in the title. Upon completing the book, I read the pages following the end, the pages explaining the character in the story is entirely made up.

While I found the description of the lifestyle to be interesting, the "love affair" in the book seemed to detract from the story. It wasn't very believable, which makes sense now that I know the story is fiction.

Ovarall though, it's an enjoyable book, especially if you like stories about different cultures and experiences.