Kafu Nagai’s Rivalry: A Geisha’s Tale presents a world that seems more realistic that Memoirs of a Geisha, which was the rage 10+ years ago. In Rivalry, Komayo is a former geisha. She left the profession when she married. Unfortunately, her husband dies. There’s no reason to stay in the countryside up north with rude in-laws for the rest of her life, so she returns to Tokyo and her geisha house.
One of her first “patrons” sees her and takes up with her. He’s just a little bit older than she is and spending time with him is far better than with the fat, bald, ill-mannered middle-aged customers. Life’s not so bad.
Then Komayo meets an attractive actor and they have a dalliance. Then they have another and another. Her first patron was going to buy Komayo’s contract. He proposes marriage and Komayo isn’t sure. The patron hears some gossip about Komayo and the actor so he buys the contract of a fleshy, jovial but uncouth geisha. So there! (Talk about biting off your nose to spite your face.)
Komayo’s life spirals and shame haunts her. At times the story meanders, but generally the realistic tone which describes geisha life (without getting as flowery as Arthur Golden sometimes did) makes for a pleasant read.
The ending seemed to pat and undeserved, but forgiveable.