1998 edition; Alfred A. Knopf publishers, New York; hardbound in brown and ivory boards with Japanese metal foil lettering on cover and English metal foil lettering along spine; very good condition with unmarked pages; dust jacket very good.
Memoirs of a Geisha is a historical fiction novel by American author Arthur Golden, published in 1997. The novel, told in first person perspective, tells the story of a fictional geisha working in Kyoto, Japan, before and after World War II. In 2005, a film version was released.
At the age of nine, Chiyo Sakamoto (坂本千代) is taken from her poverty-stricken fishing village of Yoroido (鎧戸) on the coast of the Sea of Japan with her older sister Satsu (坂本薩) and sold to an okiya (geisha boarding house) in Gion, the most prominent geisha district in Kyoto. Perceived as less attractive in looks and demeanor, Satsu is not sold into the okiya and is instead traded into the Tatsuyo House and is forced into becoming a prostitute in Kyoto's pleasure district. Chiyo lives in the Nitta Okiya (新田置屋) alongside another young girl named Pumpkin, the elderly and grumbling Granny, money-obsessed Mother, and Auntie, a failed geisha with a walking disability. Also living in the okiya is the famous and ill-mannered geisha, Hatsumomo (初桃), renowned for her wickedness and dazzling beauty. She promptly takes to disliking Chiyo, whom she sees as a potential future rival who may threaten her place in the okiya and Gion, as well as Mother's financial dependence upon her earnings. Hatsumomo begins to go out of her way to get rid of Chiyo, even withholding the knowledge of Satsu's whereabouts in the pleasure district to make her do her dirty work and get blamed for it. This includes having Chiyo ruin an expensive kimono belonging to her more successful rival, Mameha (豆波), if she wants Hatsumomo to tell her where Satsu is. Auntie warns Chiyo against both angering and trusting Hatsumomo, knowing the ill-mannered geisha's true nature very well.
When Chiyo finds Satsu in the pleasure district, she conspires with her to escape from their new lives. Returning to the okiya, she happens upon Hatsumomo engaged in intimate relations with her plebeian boyfriend, Koichi (幸一). This proves to be against the rules of the geisha lifestyle as it's a livelihood-threatening situation for a geisha whose air of unattainability is crucial to their allure. A furious Hatsumomo attempts to twist the situation and falsely blames Chiyo for stealing. Although Chiyo is punished, Hatsumomo is also banned from seeing Koichi again, and that increases her hatred for Chiyo. Mother then orders the gates to be locked and bans everyone from leaving, except for nightly attendance with clients. Despite Pumpkin and Auntie's warning not to run away, Chiyo plans to leave the okiya and escape the city with Satsu. She is caught when she falls off the roof and breaks her arm. Enraged at her for dishonoring the okiya and incurring further medical costs, Mother stops investing in Chiyo and forces her pay off her increasing debts as a personal maid for Mother, rather than a geisha in training. Chiyo learns of her parents' death and also that Satsu had returned to Yoroido, only to run away with the son of a fisherman. Overjoyed by Chiyo's demotion to being a slave under Mother and wanting revenge for being banned from Koichi, Hatsumomo takes advantage of the situation by continuing to be cruel to her.
A few years later, a downtrodden Chiyo is given money and a handkerchief in the street by a strange but kind man known to Chiyo as the Chairman. She donates the money to the Yasaka Shrine in Gion, praying to become a geisha...