Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

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Sometimes you find a book that is more like meeting a person and developing a friendship than just picking up another paperback. Memoirs of a Geisha was precisely this for me, and I feel quite upset – like I’ll never find another book that is quite as enchanting as this one.

I’m almost embarrassed about how long it took me to pick it up. I had bought it with a bunch of other second hand books, but wasn’t in the mood for having to try and understand a foreign culture, so I kept putting it off. But that is part of the magic of this novel, that Arthur Golden (a white, western, male academic) can take the hand of his reader and immerse them so utterly and completely in Japanese culture­­ ­– and especially into the life and times of a rural Japanese woman in the early 19th century.


The story is exquisitely crafted and the language is rich. It is impossible not to feel that the lead character Sayuri Nitta, is not real, and not really sitting across from you with a cup of green tea, recalling her life as a Geisha in Kyoto. This book has moved me so much, that it immediately jumped into my top ten list (similar books in that list include Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind and Lord of the Rings, if that testifies to the richness of this tale and the fact that it is definitely a modern classic).

I cannot recommend it strongly enough, regardless of whether you’re into Asian culture or not (disclaimer: I wasn’t interested in Asian culture until I read this book). If I was you, I would consider getting hold of a good bottle of sake (Japanese rice wine­ – so it’s still applicable to this blog) and enjoying this magnificent story. If sake is not your thing, why not try the impeccable Hillcrest Estate Merlot, with berry flavours and a feminine finish, it is the perfect accompaniment to this tale.