All I can say is – wow. This book is utterly amazing. Considering it came out in the last decade or so, that’s really extravagant praise from me. Nearly every word was perfect (though I thought the “translater’s note” at the beginning was unnecessary, as the “translater” plays no role in the book at all). I was so completely immersed, I couldn’t put it down, but unlike books that normally make me turn the pages so quickly, I didn’t feel sick afterwards. Most page turners I’ve read have very little character development, and exist solely for plot twists and devices. This one, on the other hand, has a perfect blend of plot, character, setting, and emotion. I took the weekend off (Yay!) and this ended up being the perfect book to glide me through my mini-vacation.
The prose is gorgeous. It’s almost as if it’s written to be a symbolic counterpart of a geisha – beautifully structured and decorated, with a deep center hidden under all the poetry. Arthur Golden has some amazing talent. I was so immersed in this book, and the main character, Sayuri, was so convincing that it’s really hard to believe that an American man from modern times wrote it. I know he did extensive research, including visiting former geisha from Japan for interviews, but still it’s hard to believe. I’m quite impressed.
Apparently, though, there’s been some controversy regarding his research. The woman who he interviewed primarily, Mineko Iwasaki, talked only under the condition of anonymity, or at least that’s what she claims. Golden, however, included her in his acknowledgements. He thanked her for all her help. While his plot and characters were fictional, a lot of his knowledge about the world of the geisha came from Iwasaki, and she received a lot of backlash when people found out (there’s an unspoken code of silence among geisha). I don’t imagine he was trying to hurt her – I mean, he was giving her his primary thanks in the acknowledgements – but there ended up being a court case some years back, and Iwasaki actually wrote her own book. It was her memoir, written in part to prove the character of Sayuri and her life were not based on Iwasaki’s life. I think that sounds interesting; I might read it soon.
As for the movie, which I really did like before reading this book – it just doesn’t compare. It’s still a good film, don’t misunderstand me, but like the majority of movies based on books, it simply pales in comparison. This is a wonderful book. I recommend it to everyone.