Friday, July 22, 2011

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Billed as a "Cinderella story", Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is a fabulous story about a young woman's life as a geisha. When her mother grows ill, Chiyo's father sells her and her sister into slavery. Chiyo's sister is sold into prostitution, while Chiyo is sold to the geisha house of the Nitta family. Into this world Chiyo is thrust, having to endure harsh treatment from the house's star geisha - Hatsumomo. It is not long before Chiyo is convinced her life will be lived as a servant to the Nitta house and to Hatsumomo.

It is when she has almost given up that fate intervenes in the forms of two characters:

The Chairman - Chiyo's "Prince Charming", who rescues her during an emotional breakdown through the simple act of kindness. This act convinces her to go on. She will spend the rest of her life trying to attain the Chairman's affections, if only in her own fantasies.

Mameha - Chiyo's "Fairy Godmother", who will become Chiyo's teacher in the world of the geisha. Mameha's cleverness and knowledge will protect and shape the woman and the geisha Chiyo becomes.

Chiyo becomes the geisha, Sayuri, and the book changes from a "coming of age" novel to a more dramatic examination of relationships and love. It's here where the story becomes weaker. The first half is so engaging and well-developed that the second half falls a little flat. The second half is a great book - which makes the first half phenomenal! I loved this book and could not put it down.

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