Basically, this is a book review of 'Memoirs of a Geisha'.
|Although this is a memoir written by an academician with a degree in art history, specializing in Japanese art, the storyline is nevertheless, fictional. It was only revealed to me at the very end in ‘acknowledgements’. The ‘translator’s note’ at the beginning made me think throughout reading this book that this was actually a non-fiction, told to him by Nitta Sayuri. Whether it was truly a story of Nitta Sayuri’s life or not, it is irrelevant now as I have read the whole book thinking that it is. By doing so, the book and its story had touched me as any true life-story could.
Academically written with its detailed descriptions of an era in Japan between 1920s and 1940s, which span a period before the World War I and post-war, it did not feel like reading a textbook at all. On the contrary, my attention was drawn from the very first line I read. Very poetic and captivating. Gripping even. From the very beginning, my curiosity was aroused by the way the main character, Nitta Sayuri led the story in her own voice. The story flowed, with a proper climax when she succeeded in becoming a reputable and popular geisha under her ‘older sister’, Mameha’s tutelage and influence. She further established herself in her world as a geisha by inheriting an okiya. By having done so, the path in front of her brightened. The story probably should have ended here but Nitta Sayuri still had unfinished business – an unrequited love. Love is always a very powerful tool, especially when passion is involved. I had almost hated Sayuri for what she had done in realizing her passion. I pleaded silently for her to change her mind. But alas! Life is what goes wrong. If it doesn’t, something MUST BE amiss and it doesn’t quite seem right. The story ended satisfactorily with an unexpected twist, for me at least.
As a woman reading this novel, I was moved and enlightened by the way women were treated and regarded during that era in Japan. I’ve come to see how far we’ve come and the tremendous change women are viewed now by society, most at least. After reading this book, I have developed a different perspective on the Japanese people as a whole and would not relate to them merely as the bad guys during the Japanese Occupation in Malaya. I’ve also learnt that the Japanese culture is one of the most beautiful ones to be acknowledged in this world.
On a personal note, this novel is splattered with thoughtful insights of life. One sentence that I love most was…’ I would be like a dancer who had practiced since childhood for a performance she would never give.’ How so true it rings of my life. Up until recently, I’ve journeyed through life without really stopping to taste the view. Thanks to this wonderful novel of a book, I promise myself every day now to stop and smell the flowers that come my way.