Book description: Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love, always elusive, is scorned as illusion. Sayuri’s story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Through her eyes, we see the decadent heart of Gion–the geisha district of Kyoto–with its marvelous teahouses and theaters, narrow back alleys, ornate temples, and artists’ streets. And we witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it. But as World War II erupts and the geisha houses are forced to close, Sayuri, with little money and even less food, must reinvent herself all over again to find a rare kind of freedom on her own terms.
Memoirs of a Geisha was an amazing work of art. I personally would like to commend Burnadette Dunne, the voice-over artist, who tapped into Sayuri’s subtle yet sincere, demure yet rock-solid strength, in her narration of the audiobook. I feel like I got so much more out of this book by listening to it. The pronunciation of all the locations, like the Ichiriki teahouse, and her challenging dynamic with Hatsumomo, were described with such beautifully nuanced imagery and metaphor. I felt like I was on the phone with Sayuri telling me, first hand, the accounts of her life. The story unfolded in my mind’s eye. The characters were full of humor yet humility. Sayuri’s sensitivity and strength over the years made me even more fulfilled to have read this artful work. I feel like I’ve opened myself up and expanded my horizons so much in the last two weeks I’ve spent listening to this book. As each of us women ‘came of age’, we all faced struggles. Yet to have your virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder? Definitely wasn’t on the radar for me, having grown up in the United States. Sayuri remained strong despite all her hardships along the way. I really appreciated the span of Sayuri’s memoir, giving the reader a glimpse into the mysterious, magical and seductive world of Geisha girls. This book reads like poetry and I thought it was simply beautiful, like a fancy Japanese painting that you look at for a while, and keep noticing new things about it each time you pass it over, each view getting richer than the next. I was fascinated by Sayuri’s desire to keep her memoir from being published until the main characters in the book were deceased so as to not offend them!
PS- I want to name my next female Akita ‘Sayuri’; I think it’s beautiful.
14 down, 38 to go!!
In progress: Raven Stole The Moon, Three Cups of Tea (Audiobook)