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Editorial Reviews

After the death of her mother, a young girl from a rural fishing village is sold to a Geisha House in the Gion District of Kyoto. Her fate continually twists, along with Japan's, before, during and after World War II.

This listen captures with great detail the lush glamour of a geisha's world, as well as the brutal realities of indentured servitude. The experience is superior to that of the movie, because each moment is mined for maximum insight. Protocols and relationships, even food and finances, are also meticulously described. The result is total immersion in this fascinating culture.

The narration may seem reserved, but that is appropriate given the book's setting. The sexual content is also very discreet and appropriate. Watching the movie is only getting your feet wet; get the full experience through this listen, a bewitching strong step into not just another time, but another world.

Publisher's Summary

Nitta Sayuri tells us in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate of her life as a geisha. Her story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as we enter a 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.

It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction - at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful - and completely unforgettable.

©1997 Arthur Golden; Copyright ©1998 by Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Astonishing...Breathtaking...You are seduced completely." (Washington Post Book World)
"...a bravura performance, a first novel that provides a vivid view into a largely lost and secret world." (The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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A Well-Crafted Story

Any additional comments?

Loved this book. It's well-written, engaging, and is an interesting look at this culture and time period. The characters are fully rounded and dynamic.

I wasn't a huge fan of the narrator right away, but settled in as the story went on. He's ok, but doesn't necessarily bring Japan to life.

Overall though, this is a great listen, and I definitely recommend it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good book, Poor narration

Having read the book prior to listening to the audible version I knew it was a good story, but the narrator sounds like a robot reading a book. Maybe I'm just spoiled with all the great readers we have now days.
Not only can I picture this monotone robot with the book in its hand but It sounds like it was recorded in the 1960's. Listen to a sample before buying.
This is one of the rare times I recommend- no, I insist- you read the book and skip the audio version.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jodie
  • Middletown, NY, United States
  • 07-24-14

All I can say is Wow!

I purchased this book because I remember people talking about it, but I really didn't know exactly what it was about. I was very surprised that it turned out to be such a wonderful story...I think I expected more of a diary-type story, but it was so much more. Also, knowing so little about pre-WWII Japan, I learned a lot about Japanese culture. It was facsinating to me. I always thought that Geisha's were prostitutes, and although some may still define them as so, they really were artists. After reading the book, I rented the movie to see how they visualized it. It was a little different, but it did help paint pictures for me in the areas that I could not imagine. It is a lovely book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rebecca
  • Fort Oglethorpe, GA, United States
  • 11-27-11

Simply amazing!

This is now one of my all-time favorite books.

The writing is so compelling I felt transported to the world of the novel at all times. My house was cleaner than it had been in months because I would look for things to do (clean) so I could listen just a little bit longer!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • K.
  • Greenville, NC, United States
  • 01-13-11

Sound quality good, narration...not so much

I have read this book numerous times and decided to purchase the audio format just so I could listen to the book while running errands or tending to housekeeping. The story line gets 25 out of 5 stars!!! On the otherhand, the narrator that was selected reads through this piece as if it were a text book. Much detail is given about the soft, charming voice in which Sayuri has. Maybe I'm naive, but I thought perhaps the publisher would hire someone that would fit the bill.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hii Kii
  • Eugene, Oregon United States
  • 01-01-11

What a terrible reader for this book

Until a new version is available that doesn't sound like it is being read by an elementary school teacher, skip this audiobook. Her reading of simple Japanese words will pull you right out of the story. It is cringeworthy!

If there is ever a new version, I'll buy it, but this one isn't worth the credits or a sale price.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 07-31-10

See the movie, this is not worth the credit

I loved the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. After reading the reviews of the Audible version, I was looking forward to finally reading/listening to the book. This was not my favorite book really in any respect. If one is interested in the theory behind and the rearing of a geisha, then this book might have its merits. Firstly, however, I thought the narrator was the worst aspect of it. She was dry, uninspired and appeared to be just reading a book and maybe for the first time. Worst narrator in the last 50 books for me. Secondly, I never got invested in any character as I did in the movie. Actually, I did not find much in the book that was not in the movie so what's the point? Sorry, but this was just not a great way to spend a credit.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Mia
  • Silver Spring, MD, USA
  • 06-07-09

Stunning-I couldn't stop listening

I was immediately drawn into the wonderful, gripping story!! It was so real, so vividly written, and beautifully narrated. The story line is compelling and the written is so descriptive. It is a great novel -- I loved this book. It is the best book I have listened to or read in a long time.
I also have to say that it is incredible that a man wrote this book. What a great story. I got totally lost in it. You are tempted to believe it is an actual memoir, then have to remind yourself it is a work of fiction. Amazing!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kris
  • Cordova, TN, USA
  • 05-22-09

Can't stop listening to this book!

I find myself looking for excuses to get in my car and listen to this book! It is wonderful - very interesting to learn the way of life for a Geisha in Japan, very fasinating! Definitely recommend!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful Story of a Geisha

This is a beautifully written novel about one girl's very difficult life as she grew up to be a famous Geisha immediately before WWII and after. The descriptions are so detailed and realistic that it is hard to remember that it is a novel and not a narrative about a real women. Since listening to this book I have read other books about Geisha, and it is very close to the first person accounts of real Geisha. I highly recommend it.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Sally
  • 04-07-13


I read this book a number of years ago and was captivated by it. The narration is spot on and I was disappointed by the audiobook in any way. This title remains one of my all time favourites. I will listen again in a few years time and be transported into the secretive and magical world of the geisha all over again. A must listen title.

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  • Eileen
  • 11-25-12

Book good but

I read this book and its fantastic - listening s another thing, the narrator is dreadful, it's an American who reads in monotone- dreadful

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  • Matthew
  • 09-24-12

Cheesy with bad narration, but enjoyable anyway

There are a couple of strange things about this novel. First is the narration. I initially hated Bernadette Dunne's novel so much I wasn't sure I would make it to the end. I did eventually get used to it, though. It's not great, but with a little perseverance it does become listenable.

Secondly, there's the introductory chapter, which purports to be the translator's notes. I was quite some way into this book before I worked out that it wasn't a true story, or even based on one. When I did, I felt like I'd been misled.

As for the story itself, I certainly had no trouble becoming immersed in it and I really enjoyed it. It's hard to say why, though, because the characters were all very 2 dimensional as was most of the plot. I think it was ultimately carried by sheer cheesy feel-good factor.

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  • Kay
  • 09-11-12

Riveting and beautifully read

I really enjoyed this-I went through a myriad of emotions whilst listening and felt I learnt a lot about the culture of Japan too. You will not be disappointed.

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  • Maggie Kelly
  • 09-10-12

Lovely audible imagery

I read the text version of this novel many years ago, and remembered enjoying it, but finding it hard going. This is the way it was meant to be consumed in my opinion - you have a narrator who is simply talking to her scribe. That's the way Arthur Golden collected the many hours of memories, by sitting and listening to someone who was just talking to him. Bernadette Dunne has a great voice, good characterisation and never interferes with the flow of the book.

There are good guys and bad guys (not always who you'd expect), there is love, loss and tea ceremony.

In the end though, there are just so many things that are made real by the poetic descriptions. My journeys to work have never been so good!

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  • Jane
  • 08-14-12


It is great at some points sounds a bit computerized, and is in 3 parts so could become irritating but not so far.

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  • Richard
  • 04-22-12


Another book that I've often thought of reading but have just never got around to. The superb narration really brings the book to life in such a way that I don't think anyone could fail to enjoy it.

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  • P
  • 08-06-10

A book to savour

This is a lovely book charting the journey of a impoverished Japenese village girl into becoming a geisha showing us the beauty, privilige and oppression central to this unusual life. A book about longing, love and destiny read at just the right pace in tune with the text, the language is replete with simple zen type images that are full of originality, for example, 'she had a cough a part of her as a song is part of a bird': 'I wasn't really thinking so much as struggling to put my thoughts into some kind of order. They felt to me like rice pouring from a torn sack'. A great story, a window on a disappearing world, a magical journey of pain and hope.

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  • Andrea
  • 05-28-10

Superb Book

I read this book years ago and loved it. I decided to buy the audiobook in the hope it would stand up to my expectations, usually in these cases it would fail but I loved it. Such a fantastic book and great to listen to. Will be listening to it over and over again

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  • Pauline
  • 05-14-10

So descriptive

I loved this book, you felt that you were there, the desriptions were very powerful and it was beautifully read. Having now seen the film, the book is so much better.