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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

About the book

A seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, that tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan’s most dramatic history, it uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930s, where a young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha – dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most powerful men

Reviewed by Enjoying Books Reading Group:

An interesting cultural read – we were amazed that the author was a man. Very informative. The book created a great deal of discussion.

Star rating: ***

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13 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden”

  1. Review by Petersfield U3A Book circle 3:
    We all thought it was too long. The first half was fascinating and illuminating, second half was tedious. We got bored with the Chairman. All in all everyone enjoyed the book.
    Star rating: ***

  2. Review by Everton Reading Group:
    Paints a picture of life in Japan. Excellent social history. A readable tale, excellent description but travels only at surface level and lacks real depth.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Goodworth Clatford WI Reading Group:
    Clever, well written. Male author really got under the skin of the characters. Beautiful descriptive writing. Thoughts and feelings well explored. Much learnt about life in Japan – both pre-war and later.
    Star rating: ****

  4. Review by Shipton Bellinger WI reading group:
    Beautifully written, it is hard to believe that the author is a man. If you haven’t already read this novel please do so as it opens up a whole new culture. Seductive thought this novel is we all had qualms about the way that children, girl children of course, were groomed for what is in effect the sex trade.
    Star rating: ***

  5. Review by Liss Book Club:
    A lot of discussion. None of us knew anything about Japanese life at all. We found it all very interesting and well described, but how cruel they were to those little trainees. A good read.
    Star rating: ***

  6. Review by Boaters Book Club:
    All found it beautifully written (4 of us had read it before) and an interesting story, esp. the characters and the Geisha’s way of life (their training, their being sold into it, their Kimonos etc). The difference between a prostitute and a geisha was discussed as well as the sale of their virginity and the usage of abortion. Also discussed was that Japanese men seem misogynist and that the book was written by a man. The ending was considered hurried and weak but interesting and more information would have been appreciated esp. about post war geisha work. The move to New York and becoming a business women was admired.
    Star rating: ****

  7. Review by Gosport Bookworms:
    The group were divided on the merits of this long powerful novel. It was agreed that it was an insight into one of Japan’s rather mysterious institutions, but several found it rather depressing and perhaps too difficult for Westerners to understand and respect.
    Star rating: **

  8. Review by Chocolate Book Group:
    We all agreed it was a great book. ‘Theatre and ritual – fascinating’. ‘Very believable’. ‘An eye opener to Japanese culture’, ‘Gripping’.
    Star rating: ****

  9. Review by Lymington WI Reading Group:
    All agreed a great insight and held us all. Great sacrifices shown by the girls, spitefulness and crudity but strong spirit of survival. We were all impressed by the strength of the writing.
    Star rating: ****

  10. Review by Andover Library Reading Group:
    Majority liked it. Good social history. Some felt ending a bit contrived.
    Star rating: ***

  11. Review by Stubbington Village WI Reading Group:
    A very enjoyable (if quite long) book – so hard to believe it was written by a man! The characters were so believable, the detail fascinating, and it was easy to accept the principle of autobiography. A very detailed description of the training of a life of a Geisha in the pre and post WWII eras, the only criticism would be that the book has a slightly weak ending, we felt.
    Star rating: ***

  12. Review by New Milton Sands WI/3
    Thoroughly enjoyable read! Almost everyone loved the book. Well written and fascinating characters.
    Star rating: ****

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