Review #5: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This was a book I’d always heard really good things about, but always passed over when looking through my bookshelf for my next book. I finally got it on audiobook to listen to while I was on a trip, and finished it up in book form when I got back. I’m very picky about my audiobooks, but this was the perfect book to listen to and I probably wouldn’t have read it for another few years if I hadn’t started it that way.

This book tells the story of Chiyo, a young girl growing up in a tiny Japanese fishing village in the years preceding World War II. At age nine, facing extreme poverty, her father sells her to a geisha house. Here, she is at the mercy of Granny, Mother and Auntie, the three women who run the house, and of Hatsumomo, the cruel geisha whose business essentially supports them. The story follows her rise from lowly servant girl to a geisha herself.

The plot is difficult to summarize without giving things away. It’s also not a super plot-driven book: the story is made up of lots of little events that don’t sound very interesting when described, but come to life on the page. Golden is a fantastic writer–he renders the world in which his story is set so incredibly well, with such vivid description. He also does an amazing job of depicting the geishas, Chiyo in particular. I loved how rich and detailed the narrative was–Golden clearly did a tremendous amount of research to be able to write this book, and it shows. The world he’s portraying could not be further from my own, and yet I truly felt like I could see and feel and believe it. It’s so interesting, and I learned so much about Japanese culture in general, and the geisha culture specifically.

I highly recommend this book! It was a completely engaging and entertaining read.