|ASIA & THE PACIFIC
OF A GEISHA, Arthur S. Golden
In Memoirs of a Geisha, Nitta Sayuri tells
the story of her life as a geisha. We enter her world
where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity
is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are
trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where
love is scorned as illusion.
Sayuri's story begins in a poor fishing village in
1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray
eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery
to a renowned geisha house. Through her eyes, we see
the decadent heart of Gion - the geisha district of
Kyoto - with its marvelous teahouses and theaters, narrow
back alleys, ornate temples, and artists' streets. And
we witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous
arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono,
elaborate makeup and hair; competing with a jealous
rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with
it. But as World War II erupts and the geisha houses
are forced to close, Sayuri, with little money and even
less food, must reinvent herself all over again to find
a rare kind of freedom on her own terms.
Memoirs of a Geisha is a book of nuance and
vivid metaphor, of memorable characters rendered with
humor and pathos. And though the story is rich with
detail and a vast knowledge of history, it is the transparent,
seductive voice of Sayuri that lives in memory.
THE BRIDE'S KIMONO, Sujata Massey
Antiques dealer Rei Shimura has managed to snag one
of the most lucrative and prestigious freelance jobs
of her career: transporting a packet of exquisitely
embroidered nineteenth-century kimonos from Tokyo to
Washington, D.C., for an exhibit, and to give a lecture
on them. It's been years since Rei has set foot in the
land of her birth, and in that time, she's become estranged
from it. On the other hand, she does not exactly fit
in with the band of Japanese office ladies she's accompanied,
who have travelled to the United States for a week's
worth of shopping. Still, everything seems to be going
well enough, until one of the kimonos is stolen from
her hotel room and Rei's passport shows up in a dumpster
behind a shopping mall -- on the dead body of one of
the office ladies. In the middle of this, Rei's ex-boyfriend,
Hugh Glendinning, inexplicably arrives in town.
|The Bride's Kimono takes
us on an absorbing ride as Rei tries to find the stolen
kimono, uncover its significance in an ancient Japanese
love triangle, decide between two men, and unmask a murderer.
This novel, sexy and suspenseful, balances mystery, murder,
romance, and culture shock with an alluring historical
subplot involving priceless kimonos.
ASH: A Novel, Holly Thompson
They were childhood best friends. Now, fifteen summers
later, Caitlin Ober finds herself back in Japan, reluctantly
drawn by her memory of Mie and the events of that hot
July afternoon in Kyoto.
Teaching English in the remote southern town of Kagoshima,
opposite the increasingly active volcano Sakurajima,
Caitlin trudges through her school rounds and the oppressive
ash that falls daily. Shes determined to ignore
the past, not to let it overwhelm her. But a chance
encounter with Naomi, a talented but troubled half-Japanese
teenager, leads Caitlin on a journey back to Kyoto.
Is Naomi someone she can save this time around? Amid
the bonfires, temple rites, and ghostly spirits of O-Bon,
the summer festival when the dead revisit the living,
Caitlin must make peace with her past and future, with
the memory of old friends and the promise of new.
This novel provides a convincing fictional take on
life in contemporary Japan.