Memoirs of a geisha

Finally, I finished reading the book ‘Memoirs of a geisha’ by Arthur Golden, which I had been reading for more than a month. In this post, I note down what I found in the book.

If anyone would ask me to sum up the book in one word, I would say ‘poignant’. The novel beautifully opens a window into the life of a geisha and gives the reader a glimpse of the ups and downs in her life. A geisha is a female entertainer in Japan, who is trained in various arts such as dance, music, tea ceremony and the like. She entertains guests by talking to them, playing music for them or dancing.

Arthur Golden has written the life story of the geisha Sayuri, from her own viewpoint. He has done it so beautifully, the description is so simple and detailed, that you feel as if Sayuri is actually talking to you and telling you about her life. I felt like I was in a different world in Gion, Japan, visiting with Sayuri. How schools in Japan train geisha, how a geisha puts on white makeup for an appointment, her hairstyle and the special kind of pillow that is used so as not to spoil the hairstyle, the way a geisha takes on a ‘danna’ or ‘husband’- all these descriptions are made highly elaborately by the author, touching upon each minute point. According to Wikipedia, there is an error in the description of the ‘Mizuage’ ceremony in the book. Nevertheless, it is wonderfully described, in the most touching of ways.

The novel begins with the description of a little girl Chiyo in a small village called Yoroido in Japan and her poor family. She and her sister Satsu are cruelly sold off to geisha houses, which are called ‘okiya’. As the story unravels, the reader comes to know of how Chiyo loses her innocence gradually and begins to understand the harsh realities of life. She becomes a great geisha by the name of Sayuri. A harsh world is depicted, where appearances and money are of the most importance, and as for the emotions of a person, they are of no value at all. The journey of Chiyo towards becoming Sayuri is heart-touchingly described, and it is rather sad to read through it. However, she then accepts her fate and puts her best into being a class geisha.The outbreak of war poses a challenge in front of Sayuri, which she deals with bravely. I was constantly reminded of the lines “Tukde tukde ho gaya tha har sapna jab woh toota….. Bikhre tukdon mein Allah ki marzi ka manzar payega…” when I was reading about the way Sayuri accepted whatever was given to her.

Towards the end of the novel, Sayuri is blessed with happiness that very few geisha have the good fortune to get.

The image of the geisha on the front cover of the book is haunting, with her bluish-gray eyes. This is one of the unique features that distinguishes Sayuri from other geisha in Gion.

All in all, it is an amazingly poignant book, a must-read for those who like sensitive stories. I would like to watch the movie by the same name as well, to see how similar or different what I imagined while reading the book is from what is depicted on the screen.

Links: 1) What Wiki says about geisha

2) What Wiki says about ‘Memoirs of a geisha’

2) Allah ke bande

Note: Priya’s Kitchen updated.



Filed under Life, Motivation, Music, Reading Ramana

6 responses to “Memoirs of a geisha

  1. I have been a really bad fiction reader, I have put this book down like thrice now, I mean its there on my shelf, but not yet prepared for it I guess.. I should pick it up soon again.

  2. Oh looks a nice story line….touching indeed….am a bit reminded of India – A Million Mutinies Now by VS Naipaul….of course, that has a different theme….but don’t know why, it reminds me 🙂

    And poignant, sensitive….well, I like those kinds of books 🙂


  3. priyaiyer


    well, this one was lying in my bookshelf too for a long time. i was also kind of not prepared to read it. i finally did and was touched. it saddened me a bit though. 😦 but it is definitely beautiful and worth reading. 🙂


    ya, it is a nice story for sure. worth a read. 🙂

    oh, i havent read that book. will check it out for sure. 🙂

  4. Hey Priya!

    Nice review…something I can definitely use because I have been wondering about this book for a while and no one I know had read it. Looks like it is something I should definitely pick up…thanks for the review 🙂

    And I notice you have read ‘The Choice’ by Nicholas Sparks, have you?…one of your posts mentions it…how did you like it?

  5. priyaiyer


    u are most welcome. do let me know how you found the book. btw, our tastes in books seem to match. 🙂

    yes, have read most books by sparks – including ‘the choice’. found it ok, not one of my most favourite sparks novels 😦 liked ‘a walk to remember’, ‘the wedding’, ‘the notebook’ etc. by him much better 🙂

  6. Pingback: Geisha attraction!! « uniquely priya

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