I read this book after I watched the movie, so that may perhaps influence my thoughts on this book.
It follows Chiyo, the daughter of a poor fisherman who is sold into an okiyama -a geisha house- and follows her path to become one of the most well known geishas in the world.
I loved and hate many things in the book that I almost can't decide whether I liked or hated this book. I loved the writing style, the characterization, and just the entire development of the story. The writing style is absolutely phenomenal - it delivers the tone of a person telling a story, yet it doesn't sound like it's purely reciting a memory. The author sets the scene so dramatically, I can picture the kimonos and the house she lives it. I loved the story. I loved learning about the slow transition from a uncultured fishergirl to a geisha, the backstabbing stories, the subtle battles between two geishas, etc. This was a world I loved learning about - and it delivered in the most spectacular way - by making me fall in love with the world, with the descriptions, with the voice.
But I hated the romance. This is why I gave it two stars. I just cannot reconcile this romance to myself - so maybe you will love the book and have absolutely no problems. But I have an issue with having a tightly held dream romance in your heard that never seems to go anywhere - until at the very end (all of a sudden!) it is reconciled and resolved. The grittiness and the down to earth air of the rest of the book doesn't match with romance, which are dreams in the sky - there are no interactions between the characters to justify the ending. And ending is so, so important to me because it is the last taste of the book.
So I gave this book two and a half stars, rounded down, even though I loved so many parts of it because in the end, I can only say it was okay. Recommended if you love the concept of geishas and Japan and a beautiful story. Not recommended if you want a good romance novel. I won't reread this, but I don't regret reading it.