Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

Historical fiction novels are enjoyable because they make you wonder what if this actually happened in real life? One book that definitely stayed on my mind ever since reading it is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arther Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha: Summary

Memoirs of a Geisha book cover
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Nine-year old Chiyo Sakamoto and her older sister are sold by their father to strangers. They go from living in a coastal fishing village in Japan to being taken to Kyoto. When Chiyo arrives, she is taken to a geisha boarding house and is told she is going to be trained to be a geisha.

Choyo meets her new family Auntie, Mother, who is Auntie’s sister, and Hatsumomo, the elder geisha that lives in the house. Hatsumomo instantly dislikes Choyo and makes her life miserable. Whether Choyo likes it or not, she is now a part of this world and must learn how to survive with them.

As Choyo is raised to be geisha, we are shown the rituals she has to follow. And we are shown how influential and popular geisha are in Japan. They are summoned and dine with the upper echelon of Japan. Through Choyo’s eyes, we get a first hand account of the wild life of a geisha and more interestingly, Choyo’s.

Background Information

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While the novel is fiction, Golden did interview a geisha for background information. But even then, this book exaggerates the life of a geisha. The original geisha that Golden used for background information wrote her own novel which was very different from Golden’s novel. She went on to say that she didn’t like how Golden portrayed geisha in his novel.


It may not be accurate but it is a great novel. Golden tells a story that is unbelievable and yet so alluring. He made geisha a trending topic in the United States and helped introduce Japanese culture to America. I definitely recommend reading this novel and reading a book that takes place in Japan.

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