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Six degrees of separation, FROM Memoirs of a geisha TO …

April 7, 2018

Last month I complained about the start of autumn because although I love autumn, I hate winter. This month, another nail went in the warm-weather coffin, with the ending of daylight savings. Oh dear … The good news for me, though, is that I have actually read April’s starting book for the Six Degrees of Separation meme, which is currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Please click the link on Kate’s blog-name for her explanation of how it works. Meanwhile, I’ll get on with the meme, which starts with Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a geisha. As always, I’ve read all the linked books.

Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a geishaI’m guessing many of you – unless perhaps you are millennials – will have read Memoirs of a geisha. It was quite the book when it came out. It’s an historical fiction novel, set in Japan before, during and after World War 2. Golden, an American writer, wrote it first person in the voice of a geisha. It was controversial at the time because he had based his story on a geisha whom he’d interviewed. He had promised her anonymity but then included her as a source in his acknowledgements.

Min Jin Lee, PachinkoAnother historical fiction novel set in Japan by a non-Japanese author is Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (my review). There is a slight difference here, though, in that American-based Min Jin Lee was born in South Korea, and her novel’s focus is the experience of Koreans in Japan. Wikipedia, quoting a PBS report, says that it’s “the first novel written for an adult English-speaking audience about Japanese Korean culture.” I certainly found it fascinating.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer, This earth of mankindNow, I should probably showcase my reading of Japanese literature here, as I’ve read a fair variety over the years, but instead I’m going to do something different, and choose a book by another author with a three-part name, Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer and the first of his Buru quartet, This earth of mankind (my review). The book presents his idea of nationalism, in response to the long colonisation of his country.

Mirandi Riwoe, The fish girlAnd now you might guess where I’m going … it’s to the recent book I’ve read that was set in Indonesia, and which also, in a different way, responds to the impact of colonialism on the country. In this case, however, the emphasis is on its impact on a particularly powerless part of the Indonesian community, the women. The book is Mirandi Riwoe’s The fish girl (my review).

Jo Baker, LongbournAnother interesting thing about Mirandi Riwoe’s book is that it’s a response to another piece of fiction, in her case to W. Somerset Maugham’s “The four Dutchmen”. So that aspect is going to be my next linking point. The book is Jo Baker’s Longbourn (my review) which retells Jane Austen’s Pride and prejudice from the point of view of the servants. While there were plot elements I didn’t like, the historical research underpinning it made it a good read.

Roslyn Russell, Maria Returns Barbados to Mansfield ParkI’m going to stick with the retelling idea here, and link to another retelling of a Jane Austen novel, Roslyn Russell’s Maria returns: Barbados to Mansfield (my review). Like Baker, Russell underpins her novel with research, but in her case it’s the history of Barbados, and particularly of slavery there. Our disgraced heroine is redeemed by supporting the abolitionist movement.

David Mitchell, The thousand autumns of Jacob de PoetThis brings us to the final link and it’s a bit spurious – but it’s neat so I’m going to stick with it. It’s spurious because, whilst slaves are mentioned, they are not the focus of the book. It’s neat because it’s another historical fiction book set in Japan by a non-Japanese writer, this time an English one. The book is David Mitchell’s The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet (my review).

Well, I’m proud of myself this month, because after travelling very conservatively the last two months, this time we’ve spread our wings. True, we’ve spent a bit of time in Japan, but we’ve also been to England, Indonesia and Barbados! We’ve also traversed time from the late 1700s to the late 1900s, and we’ve read two male authors amongst our six. On the negative side, we’ve stayed pretty much with historical fiction. There’s always something to improve …

And now, my usual ending question: Have you read Memoirs of a geisha? And whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

34 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2018 10:54

    I’ve only read Longbourn of these. It was ok. The other JA spinoff I’ve read in the last year was Mr Darcy’s Daughters (I think that’s right) which was a Georgette Heyerish romp.

    • April 7, 2018 15:33

      Yes. I thought Longbourn was ok-ish too Bill – for the historical research into servants’ lives. Not so much for the plot ideas!

  2. April 7, 2018 12:40

    Here’s mine: #6Degrees of Separation for April:
    I loved The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet… I think I’ve loved everything Mitchell ever wrote. (And not because I met him once and he is a totally gorgeous person).

    • April 7, 2018 15:34

      Thanks Lisa – I’ll come look of course. I’ve only read two David Mitchells – this one and Cloud atlas. I have another on the TBR (is it Black swan green??). I certainly liked the first two though Jacob has stuck with me more.

      • April 7, 2018 17:06

        Oh, Black Swan Green was lovely too. *musing* I wonder what he has published recently… I have Bone Clocks on the TBR but that came out a while ago now…

  3. April 7, 2018 13:32

    I am one of the few who have not read Geisha. Disappointed the author did not honour his word. I would probably link it to a Murakami book of which there are a couple I have read. Since he often has cats in his books I would then go in that direction. Who knows where I would then end up. Probably in England bc I do love Streetcat Named Bob.

    • April 7, 2018 15:36

      Thanks Pam … yes, I nearly linked to Murakami but decided not to go to Japan that way! I haven’t read Streetcat named Bob but I did enjoy the film.

      It’s strange that Golden didn’t honour that promise, really. But I agree, it was not the right thing to do at all.

  4. April 7, 2018 16:21

    I haven’t read Memoirs of a Geisha. My first link is to another book set in Japan – An Artist of the Floating World but then went off in a very different direction. I like your final link, back to Japan and it’s a book I nearly included in my chain too. I haven’t read it yet but I loved Cloud Atlas and Slade House.

    • April 7, 2018 16:45

      Thanks Margaret. I’ll come read your links. I loved An artist of the floating world. Good choice.

  5. April 8, 2018 02:12

    I’m a millennial, but I did read and love Memoirs of a Geisha a few years after its release. I wasn’t aware of the surrounding controversy though! I hope to read Pachinko soon, and also enjoyed Longbourn. I’ve never heard of Maria Returns, but it sounds pretty interesting. I really enjoyed your chain!

    • April 8, 2018 03:24

      Lovely to hear from you Jessie. I’m not sure I hear from many millennials, so thanks for joining in – and for telling us you’ve read Memoirs of a geisha on behalf of the millennials! I’m so glad you enjoyed my chain. I hope you enjoy Pachinko. Maria returns is interesting, particularly if you are interested in Mansfield Park.

  6. April 8, 2018 03:59

    Wow – you did travel this month! I’m reading Pachinko on my e-reader right now and really liking it. It’s supposed to be just my travelling/waiting book but I’m very tempted to take it to bed with me!

    • April 8, 2018 09:11

      Oh, I’m so glad Debbie that you’re enjoying it. I’d be tempted to take it to bed with me too.

  7. April 8, 2018 06:18

    All the books that you mention sound interesting. Maria returns: Barbados to Mansfield Sound like a particularly clever sequel to Mansfield Park.

    I have not read Memoirs of a Geisha but it also sounds good.

    You linked the books in a really neat way.

    • April 8, 2018 09:12

      Thanks Brian … it’s fun, as I’ve said before, making the links. It’s also fun returning books to the limelight for another few minutes.

  8. April 8, 2018 11:17

    I missed the Memoirs of Geisha zeitgeist in 1997, for some reason I thought it was a trashy romance written by an old white male! But I’m excited about reading it on my upcoming trip to Japan….I had thought of taking Pachinko with me but my copy is a trade paperback whilst Geisha is a B-format.

    I’ve adjusted my commenting options since we last spoke, so I’ll be curious to hear if you notice any improvement in leaving comments. If there isn’t, I will happily revert back – the amount of spam is horrendous! How do they know?

    • April 8, 2018 11:50

      Oh poor you Brona. I’ll comment and let you. Seems like Blogger doesn’t have good spam control. When are you going home to Japan and where? I tend to use ebooks when I travel.

      • April 8, 2018 21:03

        Thrilled that you finally had an easy time leaving a comment in my blog – the overflowing spam file is worth it 😊
        Japan is now less than 2 weeks away. Have spent this afternoon looking at the things to see & do near our first port of call in Tokyo. Mr Books & I both love to stroll & people watch, which was perfect in Cuba, but Japan has a few more specific things I really want to see. Although just strolling around Shinjuku & various parks will be a big part of our days too.

        I simply cannot do ebooks, even when travelling. Mr books & I both try to take books that each other will enjoy so we can swap 1/2 way. I usually buy more as well. There’s a Kinokuniya near our first Tokyo stay, so that will no doubt be dangerous!

        • April 8, 2018 22:46

          I do hope the spam doesn’t become to onerous, Brona, particularly if the improvement is only for me.

          I understand the dislike of e-books but I do find it great to be relieved of the weight of novels and travel guides (although travel guides are less useful these days aren’t they with all the other research available to us.)

          Have you been to Japan before? We are planning our fourth trip there about this time next year. Anyhow, I will love seeing your photos on Instagram (as you did for Cuba.)

        • April 11, 2018 21:10

          It’s our first time to Japan & starting to get very excited. There will definitely be some pics on Insta!

        • April 11, 2018 21:12

          You will love it…and I’ll love your pics.

  9. Carolyn permalink
    April 9, 2018 03:42

    When I think of Memoirs of a Geisha, I immediately think of The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto by Pico Iyer. Both novels are set in Kyoto, both are written by non-Japanese male writers caught up with the mysteries of the culture of Japan.

    • April 9, 2018 16:44

      Oh thanks Carolyn – for joining in, and for making this comment. I remember your recommending that book – maybe even back when we were living in California. Pico Iyer has stuck in my mind ever since but I still haven’t read him.

  10. April 9, 2018 22:59

    I really, really need to get onto Pachinko – I have only heard wonderful things.

    Liked your link to The Fish Girl – do you think it’s a chance for the Stella on Thursday?

    • April 9, 2018 23:32

      Thanks Kate. I never try to second guess literary awards. I’ve only read two of the shortlist, but my guess is that Terra nullius would beat it out. However, I don’t know whether the others would beat Terra nullius. What are you thinking?

  11. April 12, 2018 02:35

    Nice connections! I have read Memoirs of a Geisha, very much enjoyed it too though don’t ask me to recall any details! If I were linking I might go for a book by a Japanese author like Murakami or I might have taken the courtesan angle.

    • April 12, 2018 08:06

      Thanks Stefanie. Yes, the courtesan angle would have been good too. A few people took the Japanese one but I don’t think I’ve seen the courtesan one.

  12. Meg permalink
    April 13, 2018 11:37

    Hi Sue, I have read Memoirs of a Geisha, and today just returned from wonderful Japan. I travelled with my Japanese friend who guided 13 other friends to Tokyo, Yagazawa and Kyoto. My selection stayed in Japan, and moved to another Giesha short – Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata; The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw: Hotel Iris by by Yoko Ogawa:; Men Without Women – short stories by Haruki Murakami: Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro, and a non fiction book that I think is excellent on Japan and its culture: Another Kyoto by Alex Kerr. It also has beautiful black ink drawings.

    • April 13, 2018 13:46

      I guessed you weren’t back from
      Japan yet Meg when you didn’t comment before. I don’t know Yagazawa. Will check that out. I’ve read Snow country and The snow kimono

    • April 13, 2018 13:54

      Oops, I was replying to this as Mr Gums was driving and and a bump in the road caused me to send my reply before I’d finished it! I’ve also read Never let me go. I want to read Ogawa, and I have read part of Alex Kerr’s Lost in Japan, set mainly in Shikoku I think. (At least the beginning is – I intend to read more.) I didn’t know about his Kyoto book.


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  2. Six Degrees of Separation, from Memoirs of a Geisha, to … | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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