Women of the Pleasure Quarters

Women of the Pleasure Quarters : The Secret History of the Geisha

3.82 (1,170 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

Ever since Westerners arrived in Japan, they have been intrigued by Japanese womanhood and, above all, by geisha. This fascination has spawned a wealth of extraordinary fictional creations, from Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" to Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha." But as denizens of a world defined by silence and mystery, real geisha are notoriously difficult to meet and even to find. As a result, their history has long been cloaked in secrecy.
Lesley Downer, an award-winning writer, Japanese scholar, and consummate storyteller, gained more access to this world than almost any other Westerner, and spent several months living in it. In "Women of the Pleasure Quarters," she weaves together intimate portraits of modern geisha with the romantic legends and colorful historical tales that shape their fascinating past. Contrary to popular opinion, geisha are not prostitutes but, literally, "arts people." Accomplished singers, dancers, and musicians, they are, above all, masters of the art of conversation, soothing the worries and stroking the egos of wealthy businessmen who can afford their attentions. Looking into such traditions as "mizuage," the ritual deflowering that was once a rite of passage for all geisha, and providing colorful descriptions of their dress, training, and homes, Downer transforms their reality into a captivating narrative, and reveals an enthralling world unlike any other.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 154.9 x 233.2 x 19.1mm | 362.88g
  • Broadway Books (A Division of Bantam Doubleday Del
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations (some col.), ports. (some col.)
  • 0767904907
  • 9780767904902
  • 1,128,789

Flap copy

Ever since Westerners arrived in Japan, they have been intrigued by Japanese womanhood and, above all, by geisha. This fascination has spawned a wealth of extraordinary fictional creations, from Puccini's "Madame Butterfly to Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha. But as denizens of a world defined by silence and mystery, real geisha are notoriously difficult to meet and even to find. As a result, their history has long been cloaked in secrecy.
Lesley Downer, an award-winning writer, Japanese scholar, and consummate storyteller, gained more access to this world than almost any other Westerner, and spent several months living in it. In "Women of the Pleasure Quarters, she weaves together intimate portraits of modern geisha with the romantic legends and colorful historical tales that shape their fascinating past. Contrary to popular opinion, geisha are not prostitutes but, literally, "arts people." Accomplished singers, dancers, and musicians, they are, above all, masters of the art of conversation, soothing the worries and stroking the egos of wealthy businessmen who can afford their attentions. Looking into such traditions as "mizuage, the ritual deflowering that was once a rite of passage for all geisha, and providing colorful descriptions of their dress, training, and homes, Downer transforms their reality into a captivating narrative, and reveals an enthralling world unlike any other.
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Review quote

"Lesley Downer has crafted, with wonderful precision, the best-ever portrait of those mysterious creatures who still ply their venerable craft in the silent backwaters of Japan. "Women of the Pleasure Quarter"s deserves to endure, and to become a classic."
-Simon Winchester, author of "The Professor and the Madman
"
"Downer describes her increasing intimacy with the Kyoto geisha with candor and grace. She is not a safari guide, leading us on a wild geisha hunt. She is intelligent and curious and modest, and the results of her very personal research are deeply satisfying."
-"New York Times Book Review
"
"Excellent . . . Downer skillfully builds up a picture of the loves of geisha, set against the Japanese attitude toward sex and marriage . . . A well-rounded and enthralling account of the power of that fantasy and the women behind it."
-"Literary Review "(London)
"Lesley Downer has created a masterpiece."
-"The Spectator "(London)
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About Lesley Downer

An authority on Japanese history and culture, LESLEY DOWNER is the author of several acclaimed works on Japan, including a travel book, On the Narrow Road, and The Brothers: The Hidden World of Japan’s Richest Family, selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Having lived in Japan for a decade, she now divides her time between London and New York.
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Rating details

1,170 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 24% (285)
4 42% (495)
3 26% (304)
2 6% (69)
1 1% (17)
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