Glass Geishas – Susanna Quinn.
I much preferred the second half of this novel. There, I have said it. For the first half I wondered if I would award it three stars rather than two if only because it was a page turner. Luckily, the second half of the novel pulled at my emotions more and on the whole just seemed more believable.
Steph, a rather naïve English girl travels to Japan in order to meet up with friend and join her in the hostess business. The lack of any rational planning on Steph’s part really irked me: the last contact she had with her friend Annabel was a year ago and it never dawned on Steph to make contact before departing England to ensure the plan was still in place. It was hinted that Steph had experienced some sort of trauma in her recent past so perhaps a stunning revelation would justify her reckless attitude… As her brazen, sassy self spoke freely and out of turn to Yakuza controlled Hostess Bar owners and muscle, I really hoped an horrific past twelve months could excuse Steph’s behaviour.
In addition to this, her flouting of the rules and one conversation starter of, ‘Have you seen my friend Annabel?’ made me irritated with the Madam for keeping her on! I also found the author’s use of Annabel’s conveniently hidden diary a weak plot device – what sort of hostess in Annabel’s situation would pour all her thoughts into a handwritten diary (which also doubles as a helpful guide for Steph, I may add). I liked the email conversation between the other hostess Chastity and her friend who had returned home. In the first half of the novel this was the most authentic sounding part of the story and I would have liked to see the author do a lot more with this email communication.
Now that I have gotten all of this off my chest… I really enjoyed the second half of the novel. By this point, Steph had been fully drawn into the Rappongi nightlife and had moved away from her futile search for Annabel. More of the characters come to life and it becomes clear what a slippery slope the hostess business is for a foreigner trying to make money. I don’t want to give anything away but the second half was a 4-5 star read and included a plot twist I didn’t see coming. Memoirs of a Geisha it’s not, but I am really glad I read this novel and stuck with it until the end.
Glass Geishas: 4 Stars
When I bought Glass Geishas I also bought this similar novel about westerners in Japan:
The Earthquake Bird by Susanna Jones. The reviews seem to be less mixed than Glass Geishas.