Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Author: Arthur Golden
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: 1997
Publishing House: Alfred.A. Knopf
Date of Completion: September, 2014
Motion Picture: Released in 2005
The story unfolds in a small fishing village of Yoroido in Japan where chiyo –chan Sakamato nine years old and her sister Satsu are taken away. Chiyo is sold to an Okiya located in Gion which is known to be the most prominent district in Kyoto. The two are separated and taken to different Okiyas. Chiyo is described as the prettier because of the color of her eyes. Satsu is forced into prostitution. Living in the Okiya is a grumpy grandma, mother who is overly possessed with money, pumpkin a fairly new comer like Chiyo ,Auntie who never quite became a Geisha and Hatsumomo the main Geisha of the house who likes to break the rules at her peril. Hatsumomo dislikes Chiyo perhaps she sees her as a future rival when she blooms to be a full Geisha. On many occasions she attempts to set up Chiyo to get her into trouble and reduce her chances of being a Geisha and survival within the Okiya. It gets worse when Chiyo stumbles upon Hatsumomo in an intimate moment with her boyfriend. When mother learns of the truth Hatsumomo is banned from seeing the Koichi boyfriend. Chiyo becomes frustrated and plans to runaway unfortunately she falls and breaks her arm in the process adding more debt to the already existing one. This results to an end in Chiyo’s Geisha training.
Chiyo later meets the Chairman who gives her a sweet, a coin and handkerchief that become her very reason for survival.She donates the coin at a shrine and makes a prayer hoping to be a successful Geisha one day.
Every Geisha takes an apprentice under their wing acting as an older sister. Hatsumomo chooses Pumpkin who is now ahead of Chiyo. Just as Chiyo is on the verge of losing hope of ever becoming a Geisha, Mameha one of the most successful Geisha’s convinces mother to re-invest in Chiyo. She later adopts the name Sayuri as was the custom. Later Chiyo becomes a success going ahead of pumpkin and repeatedly Hatsumomo attempts to ruin her reputation in the various tea houses once she discovers Mother will never name her as Heiress. She even burns the very expensive Kimonos that have taken years to acquire. It is here that Mother finally banishes Hatsumomo from the Okiya.
To be a fully fledged Geisha. Chiyo needed to get a Mizuage who ends up been the famous Dr Crab a very respected member of the District. Chiyo’s success encourages lots of prospective Danna’s who are meant to facilitate a Geisha’s financial independence. Nobu the president of Iwamura Electronics grows very fond of Chiyo Sayuri and from time to time brings her gifts however he never quite ends up becoming her Danna. She has secretly admired the chairman from the day he gave her the handkerchief which she has closely held on to.
Many years later the war comes and goes and she retires. Her dream comes true and she experiences true love for the first time.
It’s a great story depicting interesting norms the society demanded yet gave so much value to. Chiyo had to work hard to make a great name from a life of a fisherman’s daughter to rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty.
Prostitution was given a milder look which would be equated to modern day call girls and escorts.
Networking and good relations were definitely an ingredient for survival in the life of a Geisha.
Memorable Quote: “Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.”
Categories: Fiction Galore
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