Memoirs of a Geisha – Book + Movie Review

Memoirs of a Geisha by Author Golden Book Cover

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Summary: At the age of nine, Chiyo Sakamoto is taken from her home and sold to an okiya in Gion, Kyoto’s most prominent geisha district. She enters a world where women are trained to charm powerful men, their virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder, and love is a scorned illusion.

The Second Time Around

The first time I read Memoirs of a Geisha, I enjoyed it so much that I bought Memoirs of a Geisha on DVD. I needed to see the beautiful story I just read come to fruition. To say I was disappointed by what unfolded is the understatement of the century. The second time around, I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know how I would feel about the book, but I knew the adaptation was trash.

Well, this time around, the book did not have the magical sparkle I remember from the first read. That probably has more to do with learning about the controversy surrounding the novel. I have also become less forgiving of stories written a culture by a person who is not from that culture. There are too many #ownvoices authors who do not have the same opportunities to write about their experiences. Despite these feelings, I still enjoyed this fictionalized story of life as a geisha, even though it was obviously written for Westerners who are not familiar with geisha culture.

Lost in Translation

Even if I wasn’t as memorized with these “memoirs,” I can still claim this adaptation was horrible. It starts with the absurd and convoluted love story created out of thin air. Sayuri did feel a strong affection toward the Chairman. He showed Sayuri kindness during one of her lowest moments. However, the movie builds it as some kind of lifelong obsession.

This was annoying because Sayuri wanted to hopefully meet the Chairman again, but the point is she wanted to be a geisha. The movie seemed to forget that. Instead, there is an overabundance of meet-cutes between Sayuri and the Chairman to try to convince us of their growing love. The romance felt forced and tortured. The story tried too hard to make Sayuri and the Chairman’s love story more believable. It didn’t work and presented Sayuri as a one-dimensional character.

Overall Opinion

Memoirs of a Geisha is interesting read, but it doesn’t deserve the acclaim it has received. The novel is problematic as best. It can also be a slow read. The story is mostly enjoyable, but it takes some time to get there. On the other hand, the adaptation is an abomination, especially for fans of the book. The adaptation not only changed pivotal parts of the book that diminshed the on screen story, the movie rushed through the story. Rating: Laborious Literature / Burnt Popcorn

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