The Housekeeper and the Professor

Yoko Ogawa | Fiction 2003

(English translation 2009), 180 pages


This is a poignant and endearing tale about the Professor who was in an accident 17 years ago.  He can remember things from before his accident, but since ... only exactly 80 minutes can he remember.  Though many housekeepers don’t last long working with this odd man, one housekeeper manages to forge a brilliant relationship.  The Housekeeper and her young son Root come to love this man.

The Professor is a mathematician, and though his short-term memory is gone, his mathematical brilliance remains fully intact.  A central theme to this book is the Professor sharing mathematical principles and problems with his caretakers.  It probably helps if you have a love for math like I do, or at least a willingness to enjoy its elegance.

Ogawa’s writing simply flows.  An example.  “I also like the way he wrote his numbers with his little stub of a pencil. The 4 was so round it looked like a knot of ribbon, and the 5 was leaning so far forward it seemed about to tip over.”  Pg 62

I highly recommend this beautiful book for a summer afternoon.