I often reminisce about all the books I have that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. The Memoirs of a Geisha is one of the many that I finally had the opportunity to read and was hooked on. I’ve seen the movie, which is probably why I took so long to get around to reading it. Most of the time, if I have already seen a movie then I can’t get into the novel it was based off of, which is probably why everyone tells you to read the books first. In this case, I had watched The Memoirs of a Geisha a number of times and didn’t even know there was a book and didn’t feel any rush to correct my negligence to have read it in a hurry.
I must say, now that I have read it, I was not disappointed. It is amongst those novels that remain interesting and captivating even after you have seen the cinematic rendition. It was really good. I only know about Japan through a more religious sphere, being that I have a BA in religion and sociology but never specialized in Japan, so I can’t really speak to the absolute historical accuracy of The Memoirs of a Geisha. It’s probably reasonably accurate. In my experience, if you read enough historical novels on a general topic or era, you eventually figure how to weed out all of the hooky mumbo jumbo where some entertaining author was trying to romanticize the real story for the audience and then you figure out what it was really like. And hey, I have a university degree and I have dealt with my fair share of historical dissection, so I’d like to think I am smart enough to deal with this, and I really enjoy receiving my history in the form of a novel, it just makes life more fun.
Sayuri, who is known as Chiyo as a child, is sold at the age of 9 to an okiya after the death of her other (an okiya where Geisha’s live). She is tormented by this super nasty geisha named Hatsumono, because every good character must face some kind of adversity. Then she is brought on as the little sister by Mameha, who is the rival of Hatsumomo. She becomes a geisha, has to stop during WWII and then returns to life as a geisha to help an old friend-typed-person. It’s much more exciting then it sounds, I’m just reluctant to give away the nitty gritty details because then there’s no point in reading it.
I’ve always liked Japanese history, which is why I felt drawn to the novel. The Memoirs of a Geisha catches a fascinating time between the old traditions and the new modern way of life in Japan. The WWII era is also pretty interesting, so all in all it’s an interesting period to read about within a novel.
This book is definitely one worth adding to your reading list if you haven’t read it yet. Don’t let having watched the movie already stop you.