A book about being a geisha written by a geisha - the reality is, it seems a lot more interesting and a lot less titillating than one would imagine from having read the blurbs on books about being a geisha written by people who aren't geishas. For a start, the word 'geisha' (artist) itself isn't used much; Iwasaki prfers 'geiko' (woman of art) or 'maiko' (woman of dance), according to age.
And actually, this is as much about dance as it is about anything, dance and the dancer's passion for her work, her frustration with a rigid system, and a detailed (but not heavy-handed) description of the industry in general. (Because it is an industry, supporting probably thousands of people.) I found it absolutely fascinating. I couldn't help comparing it to Shanghai Tango
, which I read a while back; both deal honestly with the tension between innovation and tradition, not to mention the sheer hard work.
Iwasaki addresses with commendable restraint the (erroneous) assumption that geisha are sex workers, highlighting the areas where confusion may arise, but firmly rebuffing the notion that a necessarily equals b. I would likely have been much more vehement about it.
Oh yes, and I was much amused by which member of the British Royal Family evoked the most authorial approval. You wouldn't have thought it, would you?
One minor niggle: I really could have done with a glossary. Iwasaki is very good at defining her terms when they first come up, but I tend to find that once isn't enough for me, and I kept having to flip back to where I thought the term had been introduced, only to find that I'd misremembered.http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10065542