Top critical review
Reads like what it is, a mediocre novel about a geisha written by a culture vulture
Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2020
To be fair, this is a work of fiction, and should be treated as such.
However. This book was written by a white, western male who tries to pass himself off as a Japanese woman, and it shows.
Reading this book left me with the impression that the author has yet to meet a bad alliteration, metaphor and/or trope that he cannot use and abuse in some way, a philosophy that he should seriously reconsider. The book is full of them, which makes it a hard read.
There are several flaws inherent in the book, starting with his overly done portrayal of the villain Hatsumomo, you never quite understand why she hates Sayuri so much, or why she is such a bitch. Some small redeeming quality would have added much to both Hatsumomo and the book!
Mameha is flat and one dimensional, as is the Chairman. Nobu-san, the anti-hero was the only one who had a flicker of personality, which was quickly snuffed out by bad writing. Pumpkin, Mother, and Auntie may as well have been written out, as he does little to develop them,despite them being an important part or Sayuri's life.
There are many, many inaccuracies about Geisha culture as a whole, and geisha in particular in the book and instead of making some effort to address them, the author chooses to repeat them, ad nauseum.
If you can overlook all of the negatives, it isn't an absolutely terrible read. But, it will never be one of my favorites.
For me, the whole thing was stale and flat while the the author comes across as an arrogant, sexually obsessed dilettante. It's hard to believe that he has degrees in Japanese culture, as he acts more like a stereotypical westerner and a culture vulture.
The fact that he quickly and publicly sold out one of his sources (for which he was sued) does him no favors as a person. The only reason he got as much press as he did was because he used his family connections with the publishers of the Times.
If you want a GOOD, WELL WRITTEN, AND ACCURATE book on Geisha and Geisha culture, stay away from this culture vulture and read Liza Dalby or Mineko Iwasaki, or pretty much any other writer but this one.