Book vs. Movie : Memoirs of A Geisha

I’m back! Again, I apologize for the lack of posting this week. I’m in the middle of reading some books to review, and plus school and work are pretty hectic. Thanks for being patient and sticking with me 🙂

Today’s Book vs. Movie is on one of my favorite historical novels: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997) vs. the film version directed by Rob Marshall (2005).

Even though the story is somewhat incorrect about Geisha life (I’ve studied up on this topic a little bit being a Japanese minor in college) and the author was sued (see here), it’s still a pretty good story.



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. (description from Amazon)

This book is fantastic! I usually don’t read historical novels too much, but I was really intrigued to read this book because of my interest in Japanese culture. It’s also been a while since I read it (I read this book sometime in high school). Sayuri lives a troubled life from childhood to adulthood. Mainly this is because of being sold into the geisha life, but also dealing with; society’s standards at that time, becoming a woman, falling into love, and learning how to be her own person.

Along the years we see Sayuri learn from mistakes and develop her personality. The world of a geisha is full of elaborate ceremonies which I found very interesting. It was an emotional roller coaster as far as the character’s lives as I read through the book. My favorite person in the novel besides Sayuri was her Geisha mentor, Auntie. She teaches Sayuri the ways to be a geisha and very important life lessons. She also becomes a strong mother figure to Sayuti as well.



The movie adaptation of the book was done very well and I was pleased with it. It has a star-studded cast: Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, and more. It won many Academy Awards and was well received in the theaters. The actors and actress do a great job of portraying the characters in the novel. They bring them (characters) to life and they really connect with audience. The cinematography is beautiful and though most of the movie was shot in California (and some in Japan too) you would never notice it (or at least I didn’t).

My favorite scene was: Sayuri’s beautiful solo dance.


I also loved the location shot pans and other dance parts in general.

Final Verdict:

Book and movie are both great in their own ways. They work on different levels so it’s kind of hard to compare the two. The novel is detailed, and the writing flows. Golden’s writes as if he is Sayuri himself, and telling his own personal life story. It doesn’t even sound like this book was written by a man, which I thought was impressive and made the writing stand out to me. The movie cinematography blew me away. Recommended if you like to read historical novels or have interest in Japanese culture (But really I think anyone could get into the story line).

Have you read Memoirs of a Geisha or seen the movie? Leave your thoughts in the comments. If you haven’t, go check it out!

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5 thoughts on “Book vs. Movie : Memoirs of A Geisha

  1. I read this book a few months ago and I thought it was really good! I loved the historical and cultural aspects of it, and how you could tell the author really spent a lot of time researching so he could put so much detail into the plot and setting. And even though Sayuri’s life was troubled, I liked that it ended on a somewhat positive note 🙂 Great review!

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