Thursday, November 25, 2010

Memoir of a Geisha

"Memoir of a Geisha " is Arthur Golden's debut masterpiece. The book caught my eye in the public library and it was purely a personal pick. It is mesmerizing, extraordinary, enchanting and  poetic. I would describe the novel in all the  superlative terms. Running over 434 pages in paperback, it is a terrific novel; that spans the chronological tale of a geisha in a war time in Japan.

The story in sum up :  Two young girls were forced away from their ailing and impoverished parents. one of the better looking girl child, Chiyo was taken under custodian of geisha community, and the other lesser looking ended up in a brothel in the far away Kyoto city. Chiyo is the main character, and the novel revolves around her life struggle as a young and innocent child, being  plucked up from her family, her survival ordeal in a new environment, her training and upbring as a apprentice, and then finally as a geisha. Narration of the story in the first person  portray the temperament and tenacity of this young and promising beauty vividly. The language that wavers the tale are are splendid. There is a good sense of humor in some of the conversations and it is rich in characterization. We are ushered into the history of Japan prior to her surrender to American invasions. The promiscuity life style of the wealthier and influential Japanese in early 1930s were depicted with much candid and openness. 

Chiyo or Suryo, as the name change after she become a full blown geisha, is envied by another well established geisha.   The young newcomer, had a grueling lessons and endless chores to do at her residency.  Harsumomo, the geisha of their house,  comes as a hard and invincible obstacle for Chiyo's attainment of geisha. Chiyo was tested time and again her courage and determination. This young girl with full of water in her eye, has grown in to a fine adult. She faced against all adversity with conviction and hope, that lead her finally to a triumph.  Chiyo's story is a symbol of the impermanence of life. The ups and down of our life that is inevitable. Her hope for a true love that survived her and her personal ordeal in making choices and decisions is very telling.

The reader is deeply touched with the simplicity of the plot and pace at which it proceeds .

the novel is written elegantly, and but it is not without any room for improvement. For example, after Suryo's sister run away from the brothel, then there was no mention of what happened to her afterward. Reader is left with no knowledge, if she was dead or alive.

Overall, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and the book ends with this " Our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on a paper".   it is a beautiful metaphor and reader come across plenty of them, therefore I am pleased to have savored a true literary work. I have no opinion if a geish is to be considered artist or whore, but the book "memoir of a geisha" is truly a work of art.

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