Third up in the Challenge is Romance... I put off just re-reading Time Enough For Love by Robert A. Heinlein oh it would be so easy to just stick with my favourite genre(s) of Fantasy and Science Fiction... but I must NOT!!! So instead I asked the wife... what romance book should I read... I expected something from Jilly Cooper - the horse porn lady (note: not porn with horses but soft porn involving people who also have horses... no bestiality at least that's what she tells me...)
No instead she handed me Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This book has special meaning to us as it was the reason we went to Japan for our honeymoon - wife's choice after she feel in love with the Kyoto world of pre and post WWII through this book.
At first I was intrigued by the writing style - this book is written from the POV of the Geisha growing up with poor, loosing mother, father, sister, being sold into a world that is alien to most European background people (isn't the Sex trade?? - I realise it can be more than that but you can bid to take a girl's virginity...). All these feelings and insight are written by an American man... and it was so well written I had to keep reminding myself that this was not an autobiography but a work of fiction - it just felt so real.
I think it also helped having been to Kyoto, having had a brief encounter with a Maiko (trainee Geisha), walked the street and stood in front of famous tea houses... I could almost taste again the wonderful ramen soups and hear the click clack of the wooden shod Geisha walking past us...
Memoirs is not a true romance novel, or at least not the way I see them in my head (I'm thinking Clan of the Cave Bear here...) no this is a much more subtle book. Sayuri's is often a sad one - torn from her family into a "better life" she takes the challenges on and shows her true potential becoming a phenomenal Geisha in a time when the world almost lost them forever.
Japan's rich culture, which is often harsh to western eyes, has some many levels and is full of grace and depth. I enjoyed reading this book equally for the trip down memory lane and the story itself - yes a romance kept me interested and wanting to read more to find out what happens to Sayuri, while yearning that she finally gets the love she both wants and deserves.
I can't say much more then read this - go to Japan then read it again... well worth it.