Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden appeared on the bestsellers lists eight years after it was first published thanks to the release of a film version of the book. As a book lover and an avid movie-goer, I was eager to read the book and see whether the film stacked up to it.
My Take on the Book
Memoirs of a Geisha is a wonderful book, full of beautiful descriptions and a page turning story. It is written as if it is a true story, and the voice is very believable. For those who enjoy love stories, it is a must read. Those who like history or learning about other cultures will also be pleased. The book accomplishes the difficult task of being entertaining, informative and believable at the same time.
Could a Movie Do Justice to the Story?
After I read Memoirs of a Geisha
with my book club, we were eager to see the movie version of the story. If you are anything like me, then you feel both excitement and dread when you hear that one of your favorite books is being made into a movie. On the one hand, you enjoyed the book so much that you can't wait to experience it again. On the other hand, you know only too well the disappointment of leaving a movie theater in utter frustration because they left out your favorite part of the book, or combined two characters into one, or just didn't seem to get it.
Before seeing the movie, I had a hard time believing the film version of Memoirs would be able to capture Chiyo's complex feelings about the life that was thrust upon her. The book is both beautiful and disturbing, with sadness and hope permeating the whole story. My book club was torn about whether we were happy for Chiyo or appalled by the lot of geishas. Could a film capture the details that made the story seem so real and so riveting?
I went into the theater nervous, but came out pleasantly surprised. The movie was not as good as the book. Of course the script had to eliminate characters and leave out scenes. That's the nature of transforming 400 pages into two hours. I would recommend that people read the book first, but not because the film is a poor substitute for the book; rather, the film is an excellent supplement to the book. In fact, I recommend that anyone who has read the book see the movie.
My Take on the Movie
The film is beautiful. Throughout the book there are descriptions of kimonos, tea ceremonies and traditional dances. Since I know very little about Japanese culture, I had a hard time imagining these things. This is where the movie comes in. Watching the movie was like experiencing a whole new layer of story. The scene in the movie where Chiyo dances is amazing, and was much more captivating than what I imagined when I was reading the book. In my opinion, this scene alone makes the movie worthwhile.
If I had to choose between the book and the movie, I would still recommend the book by a long shot. However, after reading it, you are sure to want more. So, why choose? Enjoy them both. I did.