‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is a roller-coaster of emotions. Not only is it about a geisha narrating her story but also a window to the world of Geishas and the Japanese society during 1930’s and 1940’s. Narrated in the first person by Nitta Sayuri, a celebrated geisha, the fictional account is so convincing that you go through all the emotions along with Sayuri. The description of the tea houses, the personalities of the characters and the kimonos add to the experience.
A young girl from an uninteresting fishing village is sold to an okiya by her father through the man she admired. Before she knows it, she is catapulted into an enmity that could destroy her forever. As she loses hope of ever becoming a Geisha, a chance encounter with a kind man changes the course of her life. She goes on to become the most successful Geisha of her times but is she destined to unite with the man who saved her from a life of monotony and insignificance? What price will she pay to get him?
There are so many beautiful lines in the novel, especially those spoken by Sayuri while she is contemplating on her life.
“We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.”
“…we can never flee the misery that is within us.”
The man who convinces Sayuri’s father to sell her writes the following lines to her as a consolation
“The swan who goes on living in its parents’ tree will die; this is why those who are beautiful and talented bear the burden of finding their own way in the world.”
Sayuri’s mentor tells her
“Destiny isn’t always like a party at the end of the evening. Sometimes it’s nothing more than struggling through life from day to day.”
There are many incidents in the narrative that are overwhelming and some that are so alien that they are hard to digest. This book left with me with melancholy and with a sense of gratitude.
Read it to get transported to a world very different from the world we live in though the themes are not very different from our lives.