November 14, 2005
Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden's first novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, is definitely captivating in terms of its story telling and its setting. Japan, in the late 1930s, as seen through the grey blue eyes of a geisha has the reader asking for more.
Sayuri is the geisha of the blue eyes fame, who rises out of poverty and annonymity to bedazzle the province of Gion and become the most sought after woman among the rich and powerful. An oft used rags to riches storyline, but one that is spun with a newness because it touches two disparate chords in the readers mind simultaneously. The bone chilling undressing of the 15 year old Sayuri by the Baron is both repulsive and exciting; the jealous Hatsumomo being upstaged by the humble and deserving Sayuri who is now to inherit the Okiya (the Geisha dwelling) spells redemption and fear at the same time; Pumpkin's (Sayuri's good friend) revengeful act, though shocking also lends real life credibility to her; pangs of anxiety are hidden amid throes of excitement when the Baron, who is Mameha's lover, makes advances toward Sayuri who has been adopted by Mameha as her 'little sister'. It is this constant duplicity of emotion experienced by the reader that keeps him on edge. The reader, without realizing, becomes both an empathizer of, and a voyuer to Sayuri's predicament, experiencing a plethora of emotions that culminate in a cathartic release when the novel ends
Golden in one of his interviews said that while writing this novel he was confronted with, "three cultural divides--man to woman, American to Japanese, and present to past. Actually, I see a fourth divide as well, because geisha dwell in a sub-culture'. Whatever the divides may have been, his efforts at bridging them have paid off because Memoirs of a Geisha is most certainly a page turner.