I am chugging away at the Treasure Hunt Reading Challenge, and have checked off two more “clues”.
For the profession clue, I read Memoirs of a Geisha. It’s possible that I am the last person in the world to have read this! Here’s the blurb on the off-chance you haven’t read it:
In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world. For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan’s most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.
We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child’s unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto. She is nine years old. In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha’s elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow. She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival. Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O’Hara. And Memoirs of a Geisha is a triumphant work – suspenseful, and utterly persuasive.
Although I am not sure of the authenticity of a white American male writing in the first person as a geisha in the 1930s/40s, I did find myself quite immersed in Sayuri’s world, and ended up enjoying the novel more than I expected, although I did find the ending a little unsatisfactory.
The second clue I checked off was “something you would wear”, and for this I read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Here’s the blurb:
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
I read this book in two days (it’s been a while since I’ve done that!). Although the grim inevitability of the ending was hanging in the air right from the outset, I still found it difficult to put down, and still found myself deeply affected by the conclusion. I liked the sparse writing style, and thought it was perfectly paced. The horrors of the Holocaust were not spelled out in any explicit way but somehow that made it all the more arresting. My main criticism of the book would be that the character of Bruno seemed at times to be just a little too immature and naive, even for a 9 year old. I appreciate that this is a children’s book, but it does seem rather patronising to kids at times. So, a recommendation, with some reservations. I have heard that, in this case, the film may be better than the book but I haven’t seen the film (of this, or of Memoirs of a Geisha as it happens) so I can’t comment, though I would be interested in your thoughts if you have!
I haven’t decided what to read for my next clue, so you will just have to watch this space!