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Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

By: Ann Summar

Date Posted: 1998-08-28

According to critics, Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, promises to be a runaway bestseller, the author's brilliant first novel. A review by The New York Times says that it 'immerses the reader in an exotic world' and is an impressive debut novel.

Those who have already read Memoirs of a Geisha have not been disappointed. Golden immerses his readers in the world of Chiyo, a young girl who grows up to be one of Gion district's most celebrated geisha, Nitta Sayuri.

Golden follows this fictitious gray-eyed girl from a small fishing village where, at the age of nine, she is sold for a few yen into the Nitta Okiya (geisha house) and submitted to the wrath of the formidable Hatsumoto, one of the most popular geisha in the district.

She is forced to work as a maid and loses all ties to her family. Hatsumoto's rival, Mahema, strikes a deal with the women of Chiyo's adopted family, and takes her under her wing and teaches her to become the woman she is destined to be. Chiyo soon becomes Mahema's younger sister and blossoms into one of the most sought-after geisha in the area. Despite several attempts by Hatsumoto to blight her reputation, determination and self-reliance help Sayuri rise above the crowd and into the arms of the one man she yearns for.Arthur Golden does a fantastic job of dispelling the stereotypes many Westerners have when the word 'geisha' which literally means artist or artisan, is brought up in conversation. He also tells an extremely poignant story in a historically accurate and intensely emotional fashion.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about the Japanese culture, the world of a geisha, or simply looking for a great read.This novel is available at any AAFES Bookmark, or through Japan Update's online bookstore.

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