Book Review of Memoirs of a Geisha

Book Review of Memoirs of a Geisha

Recently I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I knew a movie filmed from the book that was the same name as the book, but I hadn't watched it before I finished the book because I didn't want to be spoiled by the movie. I read the book because I had searched the book recommendations for English B1 Level, and some websites recommended it. I finished the reading after I bought the book from Amazon about two months.

The book is about a little girl named Chiyo who was sold to an Okiya and eventually became a famous geisha. The story of the background started in the 1920s and ended in the 1950s, I think. It describes the lifestyle of geisha, the scenic Gion district in Kyoto and the crucial of world war 2.

After I read it, I thought it was a suitable book for the B1 level English learner. It has limited advanced vocabulary, and the sentence is easy to read because the author wrote this book in the first-person's perspective. Also, the culture of the book is relatable to me since the book's background is based on Japanese culture. Secondly, the author wrote this book from a view of a western. It is novel.

Furthermore, it vividly depicted Gion during that period of time, and I was fascinated by the geisha culture, so I watched the movie of Memoirs of a Geisha and some Japanese TV series, such as Cooking for the Maiko house. But I was somehow disappointed with the movie since I thought it didn't describe the whole story coherently, although the scenery of the movie was really breathtaking. Also, the illustration of wartime is unforgettable. Due to the war, food was a shortage, the geisha had to work in factories, and a lot of people died. I used to think the vicious of the war was mainly borne by China which was invaded, and Japan only bombed with two warheads. But the Japanese also in a really hard time during world war 2, especially in the late war.

However, the relationship between the chairman and Sayuri (the art name of Chiyo after she became an apprentice of geisha) confused me. I can understand Sayuri has an attachment to the chairman as she didn't have any connected one since her parents died and her sister was missing; also, she was abused by senior geisha Hatasumomo, and the only kind to her was from the chairman. But it's really weird to me that the chairman, who is a middle-aged man, has a feeling for Sayuri, who was a minor. This is not even the most confusing thing. The mizuage ceremony really makes people uncomfortable, and kind of lets geisha become a prostitute. Yet, we can't use the perspective of modern society to judge history. In the 1920s, it was hard for peasants to live and maybe becoming a geisha was the best way out for a girl from a lowly background.

On the whole, this book depicted a beautiful Kyoto and unveiled the mysterious life of geisha to laypeople. I recommend this book for the English learner on the B1 level and interested in Japanese culture. After reading this book, I learnt many vocabularies, and I think I may have improved my English reading skill.

Off-topics, since China has alleviated its covid lockdown policy, maybe it's a good choice to have a trip to Kyoto.