Just while I was standing at the Irla book center, this book caught my eye. The back cover mentioned that it is a minutely imagined piece of work. Since I am in a phase of experimental reading, I decided to try it.
Living in a small town like Yoriodo with her family, Chiyo was innocent enough to foresee herself in Mr. Tanaka’s family. But an Okiya house is what he had in mind for her. Hatsumomo, the bread earner of the Okiya, is like a banyan tree. Nothing grows under her. Her envy makes her work against Chiyo insidiously. Chiyo drags along a life in which thinking about past is painful, present is a misery and future seems uncertain. All nasty emotions visit her together.
If a moment’s encounter with Mr. Tanaka brought her to this miserable world, then a moment’s encounter with the Chairman was all needed to raise her to a new world. She stops escaping and starts facing her destiny chin up. She becomes a protégée of Mameha, a beautiful geisha, in every sense. Fades away life of Chiyo and comes to life Sayuri (her geisha name) who sets out to become one of the best known faces in the world of Geisha.
With this as a debut novel, Arthur Golden has set his forte in creatively describing emotions, beauty and paradoxies of life. He has beautifully set a world where actual talks are trivial in the midst of gestures and body language. How the mere imagination of the Chairman around helps making Sayuri’s dance a graceful act! Where she looks at the picture as Mameha being the fairy in her life, the magic wand is held in some other hand. She was painfully polite to Nobu who acted as her savior during the World War 2 and wanted to be her danna (husband) in future. How could she refuse him after the indebtedness she felt towards him. Dr Murphy’s law says that when anything has to go wrong, it will. But since Sayuri had more than her share of troubles, even the mighty powers had nothing but good in store for her. Pumpkin, her best friend, abashes her in front of the Chairman. But as predictable by now, life was always unpredictable for her. It again turned her life, which way, the book is worth reading to know.
Reading the book feels like travelling through an art gallery displaying Chiyo’s life, trying to understand the different shades and nuances. There is a lot to read between the lines. You already move from the picture when Chiyo is leaving the house and her father, but your mind clings on it for long- it wonders whether her father was innocent enough to be unaware of his daughters’ future or helpless enough to do anything. The painting of Chiyo and Satsu’s (her sister) separation leaves you with a throe of losing out on your own blood relations. There were pictures which can be skipped- like the governor’s (her danna) role, the blossom viewing party in Hakone, etc. They were not in sync with the slow and serene flow of the gallery. And the end of the exhibition just comes. You don’t expect it, you don’t want it, it’s disappointing. Perhaps, the end can never be satiable with such stories. Sayuri is at she is at peace with herself. She is not judging the people who have changed her life. After all, someone wise has said, life is too short to be judgmental.
If you wish to enjoy losing in a fiction enough to hear the tea-house music in your ears and see the colorful kimonos in your wardrobes, you know your next pick. Sayuri, with the fan in her hand, will gracefully welcome you to her world.