After seeing the film version of Memoirs of a Geisha, prior to reading the novel, I wasn’t convinced of the hype. I admit, I was a naive high schooler when this film came out and it was beyond my level of comprehension. In the years following, I heard from my mom, sister, co-workers, and seemingly everyone that Memoirs was a must read.
I finally caved after having this book on my to read list for over two years and I am so glad I did. Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful account of a geisha coming of age in the era of the Great Depression and follows her through her struggles during World War II, followed by the American occupation. Golden captures the female voice so perfectly that you would never know it was not written by Sayuri herself.
The geisha lifestyle is one that is often misunderstood. Many people assume they are prostitutes which is not entirely the case. Yes, sex can be a part of the job, but geisha are almost mythical creatures who spend years of dedication to become masters of their craft, all while maintaining a pristine reputation, and dressing in elaborate kimonos that are worth more than they are (according to the mother of their okiya). Even pouring tea, a seemingly mundane task to us Westerners, is to be done with such precision and provocation to warrant the attention of a potential danna, or patron, to support their lifestyle.
I would like to revisit the film after finally reading the book because I think it will take on a different meaning for me. If you are looking for an escape from your everyday to a foreign land full of grace, grandeur, and beautiful kimonos, Memoirs of a Geisha is a great read!