A Reading of Arthur Golden’s ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ – Oluwaseyi G. Abidoye

In Nigeria, where I live, Geisha is canned mackerel fish preserved in salty tomato paste, so when I came across this book during one of my net surfing sessions, I googled the word ‘Geisha’ and the result that popped up prompted me to read the book.

I found out that a Geisha is a traditional Japanese female entertainer who acts as hostess and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games and conversation, mainly to entertain male customers, they are also known as comfort women. There is a history of abuse and molestation of these women during the world war II by the Japanese soldiers and recent news wave about Japanese compensation and apologies to victims of the abuse.


Memoirs of a Geisha  is a Japanese historical and cultural fiction, a debut of the author, Arthur Golden and a bulky read of about 600+ pages.  it is the story of Geisha, who grew up in the era before the world war two in Japan. Arthur Golden is a professor of Japanese history of American origin, so the prompting contextual concept of the book is basically historical and research oriented. one major book said to have influenced the writing of the Memoirs of a Geisha is  Geisha by Liza Dalby, an American woman who actually became a Geisha.

The book is told in the voice of Nitta Sayuri, who relates her painstaking story of how she became a Geisha. Plucked from her little seaside village of Yoroido, and made into a bittersweet woman in the alluring city of Gion as a Geisha. Stripped of her family she sought to regain her happiness in a lifelong struggle by winning the love of ‘Chairman’, a man whom she greatly love and admire.

Having no prior interest or exposure about Japanese culture or literature I found the metaphor and imagery of water and wood quite boring and too frequent, so I skimmed through the instances of such recurrences. The characters appear vague and seem to be represented by an imagery which constitute their cultural existence, more like a conscious cultural craft.

The book reads like a journey, full of description, carefully laid out to ensure one does not miss his/her way. With less conversation, it compels listening than observing, and that makes it a page turner, because it captures the attention of the reader. There is a lot of expose on the life a Giesha adopts out of no choice and perfect subjectivity and obedience to a structured lifestyle that renders the feminine nature as a commodity and an object of satisfaction to a male dominated ‘club’ or culture.

The book serves an emotional meal, with Nitta Sayuri as the compelling flavour that make one want to continue the reading to the end, after which one is unsure which exact situation is making one’s eyes clouded with tears, her love-hate experience or the uncertainty about her love quest with the chairman, or her eventual happiness. Whichever one is bound to share Sayuri’s experience and feel for her emotional struggles and life journey.

It is basically a love story, packaged in a plot that is common for a love heist that ends in a ‘happily ever after’ way. You will need to read the book to capture all rushing, rolling and falling emotions of grieve, loss, identity, pain, and love. I must say it is an interesting read.  You can place an order for the book here.

Now I can go ahead and see the movie.


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