Breaking apart Memoirs of a Geisha

Spoiler Alert: If you’ve never read Memoirs of a Geisha, I’m about to ruin the ending for you! Please read the book before proceeding, or accept that you will have the ending ruined.

Hi, my name is Nicole, and I’m an outspoken feminist. I’ve mentioned this pretty often, it’s kind of a thing with me.

You’d think a book about a woman who’s whole life revolved around becoming a mistress to a powerful man would offend my sensibilities. In fact, you’d think that this sort of book would piss me right the hell off.

So why do I like Memoirs of a Geisha so damn much?

I thought of this while camping with my family. I didn’t want to bring my tablet, so I brought two books. Tommyknockers, which I’ve never read before, and Memoirs of a Geisha, which I’ve read often.

Of course, I ended up reading Geisha.

How does a book that should upset me catch me not just once, but over and over? What is it about this book that so enchants me? Well, I decided to break it down, so that I can learn from it.

The main character’s troubles are not her fault, but she fights.

Chiyo starts out as a poor man’s daughter. Her mother is sick, and her father is old. And so her father, who has already buried one family, sells his daughters into slavery.

The main character has no power, no leverage. But she’s determined to save herself from the life she’s been forced into.

Granted, the first time she tries she ends up breaking her arm, but she keeps trying. And when she meets The Chairman, she focuses herself on her one and only desire. And she does not give up. She uses any tool she has to get what she wants.

The details are wonderful.

I love Japan. The Shinto faith is fascinating. I love their art. I love their food! I even love the tea ceremony and all of its traditions.

The country, the world, the culture is described in this book in exquisite. While I’m reading it, I can feel the thick white makeup on my face. I can see the elaborate kimono, taste the rice balls. If you want to learn to write details, read this book.

It’s a view of World War II that I haven’t seen before

Remember how I read all sorts of fiction about the Holocaust? Well, while that living nightmare was happening in Germany, and we were imprisoning Japanese Americans stateside, Japan was living through the war as well. People who’d never heard of Pearl Harbor lost their homes, their families, their lives. To see the war from that point of view was new for me. It’s fascinating.

The story telling sucks you in and does not let you go.

Most of the book is told from the point of view of Sayuri, the main character. And it’s told as though she’s sitting in front of you, telling you the story herself. The whole story has a very conversational tone, making it intimate and distant at the same time.

Altogether, even though I hate the ending, this is a masterfully told story that is totally honest.

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What do you think? Have you read Memoirs of a Geisha? Do you have a book that you’d like me to pick apart? Let me know in the comments below.

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