- I loved the flowery language, and the snippets I learned about Japanese culture.
- The view of women in that society during that time made me uncomfortable.
- Yes, this requires a third point! I did not want to like the book because of Golden’s laissez-faire attitude towards his source and the consequences of his actions.
This book had been on my to-read-list for quite some time, so it was only natural that I would read this for this particular category (a culture I am unfamiliar with) for this year’s book challenge. And as I mentioned in my Goodreads review, I have never been so torn about a book. I was so excited to learn about geisha culture and to read it in a novel with an author who seemingly did a lot of research appeared to be a great choice. But then I came across a few articles describing how he treated his source and I felt ashamed – ashamed that we Westerners seem to not care (sometimes) about the consequences of our actions. So with that said, I sort of set out to read the book but not like it. I know this is biased and probably jades my review but it is what it is. I was just really disappointed about what I’ve learned of the author and I don’t know how to remove myself from this. And frankly, I don’t think I should.
Golden’s strength is his remarkable ability to paint a picture with words. He drew me in from the start and captivated me throughout the book wanting to read more about the beautiful printed silks of the geisha clothing, the gruesome lessons geishas had to fulfill during their apprenticeships, the harsh reality between outward deflections and the deepest thoughts of the main characters, the delicate tea ceremonies, as well as the wondrous journey of the protagonist itself. I felt with her – I was sad, happy, scared, disappointed, jealous, and excited. I wanted her to get the Chairman. I wanted him to love her the way she loved him. I wanted her ‘mothers’ to become less bitter and harsh and show their true colors. And I wanted the men to treat the women with respect!
While the author was able to evoke all these emotions in me and ensure I would read on quickly to see what happens next, I doubt I will remember this book for more than its wonderful language. And this sort of makes me sad. I feel like he missed a huge opportunity here – I think he could’ve gone deeper with his analysis of geisha culture, and I feel like he should’ve shown a lot more respect for what he uncovered in his research. And both those flaws shone through in his story development and writing. So, yes, you should read this book for its words, but don’t read it for its lessons as I am not sure if it truly depicts what the life of a geisha was like.