Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I love that tingly feeling upon opening the pages of a good book, when I feel as though I'm entering a world that is so utterly unlike my own that it's like I've gone through a magical portal. I open the book and instantly I'm transported. This doesn't happen to me with every book I read (the magic occurs far too seldom), so when it does happen, as it did with this one, it's an exceptional treat. This book left me positively spellbound. Golden writes with beautifully rich metaphors that linger in your mind long after you've read them. The world the reader inhabits is so vivid and resplendent with color and drama and is at times exciting, frightening, and also quite sad. These women or "geisha" are not independent; rather, they rely solely on the generosity of the men they charm and entertain and/or upon the geisha house to which they belong. Nowhere is this more apparent than during WWII when the geisha are forced to give up the life they've adopted after begging their male benefactors for protection. The title is misleading, as the book isn't exactly nonfiction. I've read plenty of book reviews in which people have expressed frustration with this literary tactic, but it doesn't bother me. I take the book for what it is: a splendidly-drawn, imaginative world that felt so real to me and which left me utterly bereft when I extracted my nose from its pages.
And now we reach the month of September and my absolutely favorite time of year. There's something about the arrival of the 1st of September that conjures the autumnal mood for so many people, including myself, even though the weather outside is anything but fall-like at the moment (Southern California is ablaze right now and temperatures are reaching sweltering highs). This won't stop me from celebrating this happy season, if only in my book-inclined mind. I recently treated myself to a couple books recently (happy birthday to me!) that align perfectly with my autumnal state of mind.
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. It's sometime in the future, and there's a war going on. Fifteen-year-old Manhattan native Daisy moves across the pond to stay with her English cousins and aunt in the countryside. When the aunt travels to Oslo for business, the children revel in their newfound independence and spend an idyllic spring on a remote farm fishing, reading for hours, and falling in love (i.e. Daisy and her cousin Edmund, eyebrow-raising to say the least). Things are going swimmingly without any adults around (and really, what young adult work of fiction features parents that are present all the time?) until terrorists descend upon the little sceptered isle and a military group takes over the house, separating Daisy from her cousins. This is when the book gets really interesting. Daisy must struggle to survive in the country, in the middle of a war, in a way that is totally alien to her considering her urban upbringing. The war shapes Daisy and her cousins and for them life is never the same. For a book touted as 'young adult', there are some pretty adult themes coursing through its veins. I listened to the audiobook version, too, which I highly recommend.