Well friends, I have learned two things about myself in making this post:
1. I am a liar because I told you I wouldn't be done with this book for a month.
2. Apparently, the train has been good for my reading habit.
12 down, 18 to go! 2/5 of the way through my literary quest. :) It took me four days to read the book - mostly thanks to the train.
I really liked this book until the very end. Do you know that I actually got the the FINAL page in the book before I realized it was a work of fiction? I was totally duped because I didn't do my homework before I started it. I thought it was a real biography. Sheesh.
Here's the skinny on Memoirs of a Geisha: A little girl and her sister are sold at a young age. The little girl (Chiyo) is sold to an Okiya (where Geisha live), and her sister is sold into prostitution. She meets the only Geisha at the okiya where she lives - a beautiful (but horrible) woman named Hatsumomo. Hatsumomo hates little Chiyo because she's beautiful. Beautiful = threatening in their world, apparently.
Chiyo tries to run away which makes her destined to become a maid (instead of a Geisha). Hatsumomo's nemesis Mameha takes little Chiyo under her wing, and after much consideration (and conversation), the "Mother" in Chiyo's okiya agrees to have her train under Mameha to become a Geisha instead of a maid. It all works out, Hatsumomo is eventually ousted (which, by the way, made me giddy and squealy like a little girl), and then Chiyo (who's Geisha name is now Sayuri) is adopted by the okiya thus ensuring a stable future.
Along the way, back when her life was destined to be that of a maid, she met a man who was mostly referred to in the book as "the Chairman." The Chairman was kind to her when he found her crying one day. Turns out he's really important. He runs an electric company. Once she becomes a Geisha, she is entertaining at a sumo event, and she runs into the Chairman again - she of course recognizes him immediately. The entire story culminates with the Chairman eventually becoming her "danna" (which, from what I can gather, actually means "sponsor with benefits"). There's a really touching story of destiny woven into the plot...it's pretty moving, actually.
Here's the part I didn't like: The Chairman is married. Sayuri (a.k.a., Chiyo) is his mistress. I totally get it - - she's a Geisha, which means it's her job to be a mistress, but if I'm going to call you my destiny, I would sure-as-heck want you to call me YOUR destiny too...ya know? It's clearly a cultural thing, but I just don't get it. All I could think about at the end of the book (when it becomes obvious that Sayuri has moved to the United States to avoid "inheritance complications" with her illegitimate son) was that she missed out on the most awesome part of destiny - actually getting to be with the person you're meant to be with. Don't shoot me for saying this, but I would have actually found the book a lot more alluring if the Chairman had left his wife for Sayuri. (eek...I'm sorry...seriously, don't shoot!)
I certainly learned a lot about the life of a Geisha. It was an extremely culturally enlightening book, and a really quick read (despite the 428 pages of teeny tiny print).
Since I've read a few books in a short amount of time (four total since two Saturdays ago, but only two of those are from my list), I've decided to embark on a tome for my next read...
Next Book: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell...the Great American Novel. 1034 pages. Wish me luck!