I adore the times spent with my fellow members of the Paige Turner Book Club...but I have a literary appetite that simply cannot be sated with just one book a month. This blog is a place for me to talk about more of my reading adventures. Reviews, summaries, highlights, warnings, praises and quotes. Because after all, it can be a jungle...er...savannah...out there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Geisha, A Life

Not long ago, I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Though written as a realistic memoir, his book is a work of fiction. I read some fact vs. fiction reviews on his work and stumbled upon the name Mineko Iwasaki. She was interviewed by Golden when he was doing research for his book. He promised to keep her remarks confidential, but then gave a public “Thank You” in the acknowledgements of his book. I also read that Mineko was upset with Golden because she claimed he modeled much of his book on actual events of her life, but twisted them to portray them in a negative light. She was so upset that she decided to write her own story, and “Geisha, A Life” was born. With a back-story like that, how could I stay away?

I finished Mineko’s story during lunch today, and I can see why she was upset with Arthur Golden. As I was reading Geisha, A Life, I could see the inspiration for many of the characters and events in Memoirs of a Geisha. And as Mineko correctly points out, many of those events are given a more negative spin in Golden’s work.

But Mineko’s story is far from sad. She was a tremendously successful Geisha. She was singled out as a child to be the successor of her okiya, and though she had a charmed life, she worked very hard for it. Her drive, resourcefulness, and adaptability are what kept her performing at the top of her field until she chose to “retire” at age 29. She goes on to have a happy family life with her husband and children. Mineko’s book chronicles her successes and stumbles, and I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

One of the little nuggets in this story was an account of Mineko hiding a hobby from almost everyone in her life. Geisha in training were forbidden to participate in anything that might cause them bodily harm. And since Mineko was studying dance in particular, sports would never have been allowed for her. But even though her days started before dawn and ended late at night, she managed to join a girl’s basketball team! She says she got away with it because she claimed to be taking a flower arranging class. But as an ex-high school athlete, I don’t know if one class would provide enough cover. I had daily practices and weekly games, so my sporting life was a big commitment. But Mineko says she successfully kept her basketball career a secret. As an added bonus, her team finished second in their division that year. Go, girl, go!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Mandie Books

A little while ago, this post reminded me of a favorite series from my childhood: The Mandie Books. I picked up the first book at my grandparent's house. She didn't even know why she had it laying there. I read it and was drawn in. There was only one book, so I wait to wait for each new episode to come out...and as I result, I sort of grew up with Mandie. In every book she finds a mystery to solve, accompanied by her good friends Joe Woodard and Celia Hamilton. And at some tense moment in every book, Mandie gains courage from her favorite verse: "At what time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee."

Since the Mandie series was floating closer to the surface of my thoughts, on a recent trip to the library I decided to look up the author and the series to see how much the series had grown. (My Mandie addiction fell off in my high school years). That's when I discovered that my beloved childhood author passed away in October!

I immediately did two things: Checked to see how many books I was missing from the Mandie collection, and scour the internet to see if Mandie and Joe end up happily married at the end of the the last book (because the further along the series went, that was the biggest question I needed to be answered).

I have 36 of the 40 books, so well done there. But alas, there's no Mandie/Joe resolution. In fact, apparently there's a new potential love interest in the Mandie Goes to College "series" (only one book was ever finished)! I can't tell you how much this upsets me. Joe is fantastic. He's constantly saving Mandie's skin and then giving her the credit for solving the mystery. If she runs off with some college guy, then she's missing out on (and messing up) a fantastic childood-sweetheart opportunity. That's just not allowed!

Do you ever change storylines in your own personal literary world? Because in my Mandie universe, Joe will always have his place as the knight in shining armor.