Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Book #28 - Geisha of Gion

(US title: Geisha, A Life)

by Mineko Iwasaki
with Rande Brown (translator)

6th book finished for my Summer Reading Challenge

My Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

A rare peek inside the secret world of the karyukai, geisha district, of Gion. Mineko Iwasaki is the geisha that Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha is loosely based on, and you can definitely see where he took her story and then let his imagination run wild. (For info on why she sued Golden click on her name above; she also addresses some of the common misconceptions of geisha in this interview).

As for the memoir itself, she occasionally came across as a bit self-important, but overall her story felt very frank and real. From her move to the geisha house aged 4 to her retirement from geisha life aged 29, she shares the pivotal moments along the way. Plus we get an insight into how the "flower and willow world" is organised and the strict hierarchies involved. She also mentions briefy a few of the famous people she entertained. One particular story made me chuckle, about when she was invited to take part in a banquet for Prince Charles. At one point he asked to see her fan and then suddenly scrawled his signature on it. She was so dismayed that he'd ruined her fan, one of her favourites, that she promptly got the maid to dispose of it! A very readable, enjoyable memoir.

5 comments:

  1. Hope you enjoy it when you get to it. :)

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  2. I might read it next month...

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  3. This sounds like a fantastic read - maybe it could be my book from Japan, when I get to Asia in my literary travels!

    I was really interested to see the Japanese Literature Project link - I don't suppose you know of anything like that for Chinese literature? I've looked, but haven't found anything yet. I'll definitely be dipping into that site though - I read a little Japanese fiction in college, as research for some modern Chinese writers, and found a lot of things I enjoyed - mostly relatively old I-novels, or stuff in the Japanese Naturalist tradition.

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  4. I look forward to hearing what you think of it, kailana.

    the traveller- sorry I don't know of anything like that for Chinese lit. I don't remember now how I managed to stumble across the Japanese one.

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