Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Good time girls

Valerie, as usual, has the mot juste for me: slow-burning suspense in Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved the plot, subject and characters, and it lingered in my mind more than many better-written but hollow books I've read. I don't mean to sound half-hearted, but it's quite a novelty for me to recommending a book which wasn't written in exquisite prose! The style, for me, was rather self-conscious or faux naive, but it was a slow-burner because it definitely got me hooked and has, as I say, lingered.

Spoiler follows: I suppose we're going to have to have a disagreement about the ending, you bleak-ending fanatics? I agree it was hardly likely, but it was at least (I felt) possible, and that was enough for me. I saw enough of the casualties of the system (Hatsumomo, Mameha after the war, Pumpkin) to be educated about its dark side.

What did you think about the male author? How convincing was he as a woman? Myself, I found the culture and mindset sufficiently alien that I couldn't tell if my niggles about the self-conscious style were deliberate or down to gender or what. The style also seemed, to me, to be rather more romantic than I'd expect. Would Sayuri really have been so fixated on pursuing a romantic dream, to her own danger, when she had such a sterling admirer as Nobu and came from such a repressive culture and in which she'd had no exposure to the romantic ideals of love we in the West take for granted? Help, please!

That was one of the reasons I was unworried about seeing the film. Much as I'd enjoyed the book, it wasn't for its nuances but for its atmosphere, if that makes any sense, and I thought that could be conveyed well in film. I also felt the romantic tendencies were rather (too?) Hollywood anyway, and that therefore the film wasn't likely to be a traversty. Valerie may be poised to disagree, but I did indeed find the two versions somewhat akin. Certainly, some of the plot and character subtlety was lost in the film, which was a real shame, but Hatsumomo came across as a glittering force (appropriately more attractive than anyone else!) and Pumpkin came to life and Mameha was, courageously, cast as both old and stunning enough. But what I did really get from the film was what the thing looked like - in all its alien pagentry and beauty.

But back to the book... I really did enjoy it. Somehow I seem to be able to express my criticisms better than my praise, but I shall continue to re-read it and recommend it. But I want to hear what you others think!