Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Geisha, a Life

Geisha, a Life
Mineko Iwasaki
5/5 stars

I found this a fascinating book, filled with glimses into the culture and customs of Japan. I knew little of Japan before I read it, but Mineko filled in many gaps and clarified many misconceptions.

She was the most successful geisha (actually "geiko") of her time--beautiful, graceful and determined. And yet, she grew tired of the life, and retired at the very early age of twenty-nine, ending the ancient Iwasaki line.

She begins her book with her early childhood and her reasons for becoming a geiko. She takes the reader through training and all it's rigours through to her enormous success. She alludes to her disillusionment with the geiko life, and to her attempts to reform the educational traditions, but does not specify any of these. I was disappointed in that, for, having watched her mature in this book, I would like to have known more about her reform attempts, to have seen her in that role.

Geisha, A Life is not the most well-written of books, which could be due to either author or translator. But then, that doesn't really matter. Let's face it. . . no one reads an autobiography for literary merit. Autobiographies are read in an attempt to KNOW the writer, and in that aspect, Mineko succeeded--I felt like I was ending a conversation with a good friend when I closed this book.

(Originally read/reviewed in 2004.)

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