As I told my friend today over Gtalk, today I will not be a child! Sure, I could sit here and blab about Harry Potter, which is one of my favorite book series, but I would mostly be mocking it...which you may or may not find interesting considering that everyone knows about Harry Potter.
Anyway, I'll be brief and say it's Memoirs of a Geisha. Memoirs has it's own set of Very Unique Problems, one of them spurring the misconception of what a mizuage actually is and that legal battle that occurred after the author outed his retire geisha source, who then fell under much scrutiny from her peers as geisha life is one of secrecy. This makes sense as the entire art of geisha is to entertain and appeal (for example, Inara's profession of a Companion in Firefly is based off of geisha). These girls work behind painted faces and beautifully crafted robes with the only intent to serve their patron, not express themselves and their individuality.
You know how they say part of what makes a woman desirable is because of her mystery? How your boyfriend and husbands don't want to know that their girlfriends and wives poop? That's the life of geisha in a nut shell.
Aside from mizuage, the book is reported to follow geisha life somewhat accurately, and Sayuri's narrative is vivid in description and writing devices. She speaks in similes and metaphors, and you can tell that her character embodies the idea of an entertainer, even in her fictitious memoirs.
And yes, Sayuri is fictitious, even though much of her life is based on real life events and career choices of actual geisha.
The book spans Sayuri's early childhood, when she was known as Chiyo, and spends a great portion of the book describing her years when she first became a geisha, right before Japan was attacked by Allied Forces in WWII. A small bit of the book describes her life immediately afterwards before doing a quick recap of her life from that point until present. I would classify this as a book for those interested in romance and historical fiction as romance plays a key role in the plot. This is also a novel about female gender roles, a women's world, which can make it less appealing to those who do not find that subject matter particularly intriguing.
The book never directly deals with misogyny, classism, racism, and other big issues that were obviously abundant during this time which is often criticized. However, in historical context and the narrative, it would be highly inappropriate for Sayuri to ever outright address those issues, and I feel her passing commentary on the issues themselves is telling enough on how she feels about being a geisha and the life of women in 1930's Japan. Of course, critics point out that the book is written by a man, which is a valid point, take that as you will.
The book was also made into a movie, which was splendid eye candy and had its own host of controversies, but did not do the story justice. Figures.