I finished this book today and even though book reviews aren’t my forte, I assumed it was worth a try. And the following review has spoilers, so you may go now, if you wish to read it in future.
This book captured the essence of the twentieth century Japan in a way that I felt I was a part of it, and not merely as a spectator but as the protagonist, Sayuri. There were numerous parts of the book where I was astonished by the craftsmanship the author has done by his words.
“In that sunset, my hands seemed to have been dipped in some sort of iridescence,”
That is a sentence from the scene when Mameha, Sayuri’s older sister, and Sayuri herself are at the painter Uchida Kusaboro’s house and they are leaving on the account of the temperamental artist not being in a good mood. But Sayuri confesses that Uchida-san told her that one of his most famous paintings, of a young geisha standing in the evening sunlight, he says to have formed in his mind at that moment.
The story transcribes the journey of a young Japanese girl, Chiyo, from a poverty-ridden family, to being Sayuri, one of the most renowned geisha. It showed me, in the author’s own words, “Beauty itself struck me as a kind of painful melancholy.”.
Some traditions and rituals that must have been normal to them, struck me as bizarre, and I couldn’t understand that how, even in the twentieth century, Japan was still upholding them. Such as mizuage, a tradition where a geisha’s virginity was bid upon. And even though, these things felt very strange to me, when I was reading the book, they felt normal to me, because the author had done a great job of pulling the reader into the story.
The story ended on a happy note and even though my favourite book has a tragic ending, I was glad that this one didn’t, otherwise I would have felt heartbroken for Sayuri, after all that she had endured.