Memoirs of a Geisha Book Review

Published in 1997, “Memoirs of a Geisha” is a beautifully written re-telling of the life of a fictional geisha by Arthur Golden. Readers follow the life of a young girl Chiyo in her life after being sold by her father to an okiya. Her mother grows ill and Chiyo soon realizes her father won’t be too far behind her mother.

Mr. Tanaka comes from a family that owns the Japanese Coastal Seafood Company. He promises to adopt Chiyo and her sister, Sayuri. This prompts visits to Mr. Tanaka’s house to get used to his way of living. 

Compared to Chiyo and Sayuri, his way was lavish. The day they were planned to be adopted by Mr. Tanaka is the day both of their lives changed forever. They were sold to different okiyas, which is the establishment that a woman is attached to during her time as a geisha. 

Chiyo was considered more attractive while Sayuri was not, which leads to their separation. Chiyo is especially sought after because of her gray eyes, which she takes after her mother. Here she lives and works as a maid before being sent to a school to train to become a geisha. She makes decisions that put her in great debt and are no longer able to attend this school. 

One of the most successful geishas in Gion lives in this okiya with Chiyo, Hatsumomo. She treats Chiyo horribly because she sees her as competition. Chiyo grows close to another maid they call Pumpkin, before they are forced apart as Hatsumomo takes pumpkin as her little sister. This is when a geisha takes a girl training under her wing, and she becomes an apprentice geisha. 

Years pass before Chiyo is taken as an apprentice geisha. Because of her debts, she was told she would spend the rest of her life as a maid. This was how it was for two years before another top geisha, who happens to be Hatsumomo’s competition, took her as her little sister.

Following the story of Chiyo and her journey to become a geisha is a truly beautiful story. It’s a historical retelling of how a geisha comes to be, and it’s truly on the mark. To write a story of a life you haven’t lived, but have just crossed paths with, is pure talent. Even if the characters are made up, every event and everything that takes place in this book is all historically accurate. This book is the definition of a 5/5. Nothing I could write would bring this book justice, you might just have to read it for yourself. 




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