A Writer’s Notebook-Memoirs of a Geisha



A literary sensation and runaway bestseller, this brilliant debut novel tells with seamless authenticity and exquisite lyricism the true confessions of one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha.

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

My Thoughts:

What I found striking about ‘Memoirs of a Geisha,’ is that it was a novel written by a man, Arthur Golden, and he has created a convincing female narrator. Written in beautiful prose and historical detail the heroine, Chiyo, as she is called at the start of the novel is a spirited young girl who is a product of an archaic, traditional Japan.

To me the novel starts like a fairytale in a remote village by the sea. My favourite books are often based on fairytales so the story had me hooked from the first pages. Chiyo is sent to a geisha house in Kyoto, but not so lucky is her sister, who, not as pretty, is sent to a house of prostitution.
‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ is a book I reread every couple of years and find the same enjoyment in turning the pages as I did the first time I read it.

In a way it is a coming of age story of one young girl that spans nearly a hundred years and one world war. It is exotic and portrays the lost world of the Kyoto geisha in historical detail which adds and does not detract from this character driven novel. In my recent reread I loved this story as much as ever. It is a classic in the sense of a Dickens novel. Highly recommended.

Now I must get back to reading the last proofpages of my novel, Castle of Dreams which will be published in April by Allen & Unwin. After I mail the pages back to my editor I will take a few days to think about my proposed new novel. I will then start to outline it and while I have written some pages I will make sure that my outline has tied up any plot holes before I start. I will have maps, floorplans of houses, garden outlays etc, so I don’t waste time in sorting these things out while writing the novel. I am very fond of flowers and the language of flowers in particular. I am sure this language will be woven through my new novel. Other than that I doubt I will say much about the plot as I prefer not to discuss it before the novel is finished, after all it might change along the way!

For the moment, though my thoughts are firmly centred on Castle of Dreams. If you want to see images of the castle ruins that I based Castillo de Suenos on just google Paronella Park in far north Queensland. I will write more about the park in the coming weeks.

Good writing,




1 Comment

Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

One response to “A Writer’s Notebook-Memoirs of a Geisha

  1. Bianca

    Enjoyed reading your notes on ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, a book so revealing of a lifestyle and tradition that are fast becoming part of Japan’s past.


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