This story is a rare and utterly engaging experience. It tells the extraordinary story of a geisha -summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan's dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Her memoirs conjure up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most land's powerful men.
Publisher and industry reviews
UK Kirkus review
This is the kind of book that you just have to persuade your spouse, friends, colleagues, relations or even chance acquaintances to read. It sets itself up as a transcript of the memoirs of a genuine geisha, as told to an American professor of Japanese history. Gradually an extraordinary story unfolds, revealing the tragic, touching tale of the transformation of Chiyo, the daughter of a poor fisherman into Sayuri, a renowned and much sought-after geisha in Kyoto in the 1930s. The story, told without sentimentality, delves beneath the glamorous, erotic facade of these immaculate women constrained by centuries of tradition, rules and regulations, to expose the grim reality of their lives. Our heroine, like the rest of her fellow geishas, is chained to the profession thrust upon her, by insurmountable debts accrued forcibly in her name. Behind the elegant and delicious images of Japanese prints lies hidden a world of intrigue, formality and cruelty. An altogether remarkable and riveting account that has one almost believing it really is a true autobiography. The sheer bulk of fascinating, often painful, yet sometimes joyful, detail of this uniquely Japanese stylized way of life woven into the gentle Sayuri's story make fascinating and enthralling reading. Review by SOPHIE GRIGSON (Kirkus UK)