[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
[The original cover of the book is so much better than the movie poster one. It’s so simple, but beautiful.]
“Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion.”
When I first read this book, when I finished reading it I sat it down with a sense of awe. I hadn’t read a book that good in years.There are some books I absolutely adore, but then there are the ones that give that sort of rare experience. Memoirs of a Geisha, I thought, was one of them.
…And then I found out that the book is full of lies and the author is an asshole. 😐
The details of the author’s douchebaggery can be seen on the Wikipedia article: here and look under the “Lawsuit” section – [but be warned about spoilers.] Essentially, the author interviewed retired geisha Mineko Iwasaki for her story with the agreement that names, and details that tied her and her clients would be changed. He didn’t do that, and her life was threatened and she was assaulted because of it.
He also lied and further corrupted her words for ratings essentially and completely marred the definition of what a geisha is and does and utterly took advantage of Mineko. He took the already confused myth that geisha are just fancy prostitutes and made it explode [the character in Memoirs would either be an oiran or tayu , but they are not at all the same as an actual Geisha.]
He did an insane amount of damage to the of geisha to the point that after the book and movie came out, more geisha were being assaulted than what they had before, in rape attempts because they were thought to be prostitutes – which is a whole different world of layers of how fucked up that is] The fact that the book was turned into a movie made it 100x worse. [And it won multiple academy awards, ugh]
It’s a damned shame because Memoirs is/was so beautifully written. I loved it. But I can’t overlook the truth of the book despite that fact.
At first my intrigue and awe of the lore of Geisha has stemmed since the first time I found out about them when I was a wee baby pre-teen. They are beautiful, often tortured women who can go through pain and agony for the majority of their lives for the sake of entertainment, art, and beauty.
I’ll still review the book though, but I’m salty about it. I feel like I was tricked. [And I still haven’t watched the movie because that also had some additional racist controversy surrounding it]
The story starts off with a girl named Chiyo Sakamoto, a girl with a rare occurrence of blue/grey eyes who happily lives her peasant lifestyle with her fisherman father and mother, who unfortunately is dying pretty much right from the start of the book. When it’s realized that her Mother will die soon, she and her sister, Satsu, are sold off.
Chiyo is taken away to go through the hellish training to become a ‘geisha.’ Her sister unfortunately doesn’t get the same fate because she isn’t as pretty as Chiyo and is sold off immediately to become a prostitute as a young teenager. Chiyo’s life is miserable as she misses her family, has no real information about them and the outside world, and is treated cruelly both as part of her training as well as by her ‘new family.’ The reigning geisha in her okiya is an awful, awful woman named Hatsumomo, who immediately hates Chiyo and does all she can to ruin her, as she’s threatened by her.
Without giving much more to the story, eventually Chiyo becomes a ‘geisha’ and transforms into Sayuri, the taken name of her life as a ‘geisha’ as she is taken under wing by Hatsumomo’s rival, Mameha. There’s a lot of violence, action, and various love triangles/clashes that happen, but really it’s Chiyo/Sayuri’s experiences that are both fascinating and heart breaking at the same time.
Some of the scenes are written so tensely, I got anxious reading through it. There’s sexual assault/rape in this book, including the forced ‘taking’ of a character’s virginity and the people who do it are like, serious creepers and almost on psychotic levels.
I wanted, at first, to highly recommend Memoirs of a Geisha to anyone for at least a good story. I guess that still stands, However, I think everyone should know that once again, the author is a giant asshole for doing what he did with this story.
So instead [or at least in addition to], I think you should read the real story, from a real geisha:
I also have read/reviewed it, and that can be seen: here
If the story wasn’t riddled with fucked-upness I’d have given it: 5/5 Crane-Patterned Kimono [based on the writing style and story telling, I guess] But I’m knocking it down to 3/5.
[But really, at least read Mineko’s book along with Memoirs if you’re going to read it]
“But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all to soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”