Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review #2: Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha was a beautiful adventure for me. I opened the book, not knowing what to expect. The little fragments of what I remembered in the book's movie adaptation years ago, I forgot. This book was a mixture of irony, sadness and joy. This is not a "beach read" or even a "bathtub read", if there is such a thing, because it deserves more appreciation than that.

This fictional work by Arthur Golden tells you about a girl named Sayuri from a small, fishing village. Both her and her sister were sold. Originally intended to be servers in the city of Kyoto, Sayuri's odd beauty captures attention and soon, she is plunged into the world of becoming someone who is strange and foreign to her young self. Someone known as a geisha.

I thought this book was stunning and there were a plethora of metaphors that were very witty and quotable. I usually dog-ear the bottom pages of my books, to mark the pages that I like. If you've seen my book, you'll notice how much I liked it by the frequency of which I folded the edges of the book.

When I was reading the book, I questioned my sanity. I initially thought that this book was supposed to be bleak or sad (it radiated such a vibe) but I found myself smiling at how funny some of the things the characters say. Our protagonist is smart and quirky, in a world where "proper" is the air she breathes. I breathe a sigh of relief when she is duly unaffected by the world around her. She somehow manages to keep that likeable air when I can pinpoint what I didn't like about each and every character in the story.

The world Sayuri is in is filled with rules and ettiquettes, which for a person who resides in the 21st century like me, might be unnecessary and futile. Living in a place where you have to insult yourself so that others wouldn't be offended is unfathomable. Yes, it's a way to be modest but modesty doesn't spell degradation. You have to pour sake in a way, bow at everyone reasonably worth noticing... it's so different. The life of a geisha is restricted, as you may know now.

You'd think Sayuri would dive into depression soon, being separated from her "tipsy" home and her family and basically being made into a slave girl, but she prevails. How? Hint: The book has a romantic theme to it. I'm not going to give away much but this romance is very realistic. The book did not scrutinise on the romance, like how life revolves around romance but rather, the romance is a by-product of her life. I thought it was poignant.

Being a geisha is clearly not a choice. They live their lives being covered with an inch thick of makeup. Who can truly see who they are? I thought it was rather funny, the story is about how women are being treated as, like mere ornaments, and the author is a male.

The story bloomed so perfectly, it's been a month since I've finished it and I'm still impressed. It's a book I delibrately read slowly (I took about 3 weeks) because I didn't want it to end! Now, doesn't that say something? A rare gem of a book that I knew I'd love from the first page on.

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