This story is a rare and utterly engaging experience. It tells the extraordinary tale of a geisha – summoning up a quarter century, from 1929 to the post-war years, of Japan’s dramatic history, and opening a window onto a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation.
I absolutely loved this book so read it really quickly. Imagine being sold from your home into the world of Geisha, taken from your family and home and then separated from your sister all at 9 years old. This was the life for Chiyo (later known as Sayuri). This is a fiction novel but reads like a diary and as if it could be true story – it’s so well written and a great introduction into Japanese culture.
The word Geisha comes from the Japanese word for art and they receive their training in special schools playing the Shamisen, dance and music to become the most popular hostesses and entertainers they can so that wealthy men will pay for their time. We assume that Geisha are prostitutes and I guess in some ways they are; however, the book is quite discreet about this. Mameha’s ‘eels and caves’ explanation to Sayuri is quite amusing and then there is the bidding for Sayuri’s virginity but I felt it was subtly done.
It’s difficult to decide if Sayuri’s like was better as Geisha that it would have been if she had been left in the fishing village. I feel she was sold into a world which could have been perceived as slavery – there was never a choice for her. Mameha actually tells her that to be a Geisha isn’t a choice.
The relationships between Sayuri and Mameha, Hatsumomo, Pumpkin, Nobu and the Chairman develop well and a pace for me that kept me interested. Hatsumomo is the one of the most spiteful characters ever written!
Overall this is great read, get lost in the history, the culture, the romance and the anticipation of it all!