Biograpical · Culture · History · Non-Fiction

Geisha by Liza Dalby

What is it about?

Liza Dalby is the first and only non-Japanese woman to have trained as a geisha. This book both chronicles her time as the geisha Ichigiku in Pontocho, a geisha district in Kyoto, as well as taking advantage of her insider knowledge to give detailed explanations on various aspects of geisha life, from shamisen-playing (a shamisen is a small three-stringed guitar-like instrument) to kimono etiquette to the day-to-day life of a hanamachi (a geisha community). This definitive work on the geisha gives an in-depth look at the mysterious and secretive ‘flower and willow world’ that they create, curate and inhabit.


Is it any good? 

This is a book to get immersed in, even if it sometimes feels like drowning due to the complexities that Dalby explains in far from the most straight forward of terms. The reader is hooked from the very first chapter (the tragic Death of a Geisha that made me gasp out loud) and although she did lose me a little bit in the middle, she always got me back in the end. This book is illustrated with some lovely images that make Dalby’s descriptions much easier to visualise and understand. Whilst I by far enjoyed the segments of the book where Dalby talks from first-hand experience in an almost novel-esque style the most, the book on the whole made for a satisfying read that left me feeling significantly more cultured for reading it.


Rating: 8/10

How long did it take to read: six  days

For fans of: Memoirs of a Geisha, television documentaries, Japanese history, fashion

This book tastes like: rose-flavoured Turkish delight


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