Chiyo is a young girl from a coastal fishing village in Japan. She lives in a small cottage atop a cliff with her ailing mother, he old father, and her withdrawn sister. A wealthy man who runs the fishery in town rescues her when she injures herself in the street and then in an attempt to rescue from life as an orphan, sends her and her sister to Kyoto. Separated from her sister almost immediately, Chiyo is forced into the alien world of the geisha. Scared and uncertain she stumbles many times before obtaining her destiny and dreams.
I think it's unfortunate that I read this book after I had read the true story as told by Mineko Iwasaki, the inspiration for this fictional novel. I was fascinated by Mineko's story and at times the differences between her account and the story wove in Memoir's was jarring. I am glad for the distance of years between the two readings however. If I had read them back to back, it would have soured me entirely on Golden's account. That separation allowed me to appreciate the beauty present in this book, while acknowledging the inaccuracies as part of the license often taken by any author writing within a historical time frame. The story was delicately written and Chiyo was a believable character with the fears and flaws that make a character feel three dimensional.