Monday, February 20, 2012

January Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

As I started thinking about my goals for 2012 (not resolutions, mind you) I decided that I wanted to try to read 12 new books throughout the a month.  I got this idea from my dear friend and realized that now that I am out of school, I have no reason not to read on a regular basis.  The great perk to this though is that I get to choose what I want to read rather than a professor assigning it to me.  Joy!  My plan is to switch each month between a book for enjoyment/entertainment/fun and a book for growth/learning/education.

I got started a little late in January and therefore the reading of this book bled into February a little bit, but that's fine because I feel confident that I'll catch up this month.  To be completely honest, I started this book for the first time back in July when I was visiting family in California.  I had a month off of summer classes and was just flying through books and asked my sister-in-law for some suggestions while I was out there for a week.  I read her first and second suggestion and then purchased her third suggestion, Memoirs of a Geisha.
I actually had this book in hard copy at home (forgot about it..oops!) and had attempted to read it years before when the movie came out, but I never really committed to it.  It is lengthy and you definitely do have to commit to it.  I believe this was my mistake several years ago and in July when I tried and failed to start the book.  I typically am adamant about not watching movies before I read the book, but I did watch it years ago when it came out and only remember that I really liked it, but could not remember the details.  I am realizing that this is the case for me on many things....I remember liking/disliking something but don't remember why...that really bothers me.

Anyway, I started AND FINISHED this book and really enjoyed it.  I absolutely love books where it is obvious that authors have extensively studied cultures and use this to educate their readers about the culture while telling a story.  I get sucked into the way of life of the character and immediately make comparisons and contrasts to my own life.  I think I enjoy it in the same way that I fall in love with other cultures whenever travel to another country.  I am often mesmerized by it all and am left researching the culture as much as possible on my own time because I just want to learn more about the language, customs, taboo items, and viewpoints.  This book was one of those books.  I cannot say that I know much about the Japanese culture and I have an especially limited knowledge of geisha, but this book had me diving in to learn more and more about this intriguing, yet sad (in my opinion) lifestyle.

I don't want to go into the details of the story because I'm pretty sure that you could read the back of the book cover and gain the same knowledge that you would get from me.  However, here are a few of the key thoughts I took away from the story as I was reading:

  • The character is extremely reflective.  It is great to live the story through the eyes of the character and see things as she sees them.  At times, she is a young girl and her outlook is that of a young girl's.  You have to piece some of the details together to understand what she is speaking of rather than her just coming right out and saying it.  Also, in many of her reflections, she correlates them to something within her culture which allowed me to better understand the feelings and emotions tied to her culture.
  • This book is centered around a goal that the character has made for her life.  It reminded me how important goals are to our lives and I was constantly amazed at the character's persistence and patience in reaching her goal when I so often am ready to give up or throw in the towel after just a few months of trial or waiting.  
  • We have been studying the effect of "Letting Go" in our series at church and we have focused on how refusing to forgive can be unhealthy for us psychologically as well as physically.  I'm sure it was because it was fresh on my mind, but there were more than one incidents within this book where being unwilling to forgive or a need for revenge was the downfall of a character.  I recognize that the book is fictional, but how often do we see this in our own lives?  When we refuse to forgive, we are choosing to let that other person always have a hand within our lives.  We are letting someone else effect everything we do and in turn, we are hurting ourselves more than we are hurting them.  Such a great reminder of how dangerous it can be when we choose not to forgive or let go. 

Ok, my book reviews won't all be this long, but it was fun to reflect back on the book that I spent an entire month reading.  Next up, for the month of February: The Fred Factor.

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