Aug 28

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The Housekeeper and the Professor
by Yoko Ogawa
(5/5)

Contemporary Fiction/Japanese Fiction
Publisher: Vintage
First Published in August 2003

Review


This is one of my favourite books that I have read this year. It’s actually turning out to be a bit of a Japanese reading year for me, with Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 trilogy keeping me busy from January to March.


I had read a favourite books of the year newspaper article in January and along with 1Q84,  The House Keeper and the Professor was among the chosen few. It’s a heartwarming story about a housekeeper, a professor and the housekeeper’s ten year old son. Using the word ‘heartwarming’ to describe this story may cause it to sound trite and mushy, but having just finished this short novel just an hour ago, that’s how my heart feels – warmed.


At first the story reminded me of Memento, as the Professor, a brilliant mathematician, only has a memory that lasts 80 minutes. This conditionw was caused by a car accident in 1975. Since then, all his memories are from 1975 and before, plus the 80 minutes his memory lasts. Being a mathematician, his 80 minute memory always runs like clockwork.
The story is written from the perspective of the Housekeeper who begins her employment at the Professor’s cottage with trepidation, being the 10th housekeeper to work for the professor within a short span of time.


Every morning when the Housekeeper arrives at the Professor’s to start work, they are introduced to each other as if for the first time. The relationship that grows between the professor, the housekeeper, and her son (nicknamed ‘root’ after the square root sign by the Professor) is intriguing and calming at the same time. The Professor finds solace in numbers and happily shares his knowledge with his two new friends. His enthusiasm for numbers in infectious, rubbing off on the Housekeeper, who begins to search for prime numbers in everything.


The novel talks about two subjects which are quite alien to me, Mathematics and Baseball. It’s the characters enthusiasm and respect for these subjects that pulled me in, despite the technicalities that eluded me.


I don’t think I need to say more about this novel other than that I enjoyed it immensely and that  it was a breeze to read. It is a relatively simple story, but it is full and brimming with the human touch in the relationships of the characters. The Housekeeper and the Professor is definitely a novel I would recommend to friends and strangers alike.


x
Julie

Online Bookstore and Book Review Site

-Reading Like Rabbits-

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