The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa (24 September — 26 September)

This was one of those books that I don’t really get, but it redeemed itself by being all about math. 🙂 Yay, math!

The unnamed housekeeper of the title tells the story of how she came to work for the unnamed professor, who is an older man who has only 80 minutes of memory for anything that happened after an accident several years previous. The professor, a mathematician, can still play with his numbers, so every time he “meets” the housekeeper he asks for her shoe size and birthday and various other numerical things and finds interesting connections between those numbers and others. The housekeeper and her son (whom the professor nicknames Root for his flat head [like the square root symbol]) become friends with the professor, even if the professor doesn’t realize it.

That’s really the whole story; there’s not much in the way of plot but it is a very interesting character study of a man with little short-term memory and how people around him react to him. The housekeeper at first finds him a little off-putting, but soon learns to like him and even math because a) he’s a great teacher and b) he can’t get exasperated with you for taking a long time to learn something. And the professors cares very much for Root, as a ten-year-old boy, even though he can’t remember him in particular.

And there’s math, and you can’t go wrong with that! 🙂

Rating: 7/10
(Orbis Terrarum Challenge: Japan, Countdown Challenge: 2009)

See also:
BookEnds
an adventure in reading
Thoughts of Joy

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

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3 thoughts on “The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa (24 September — 26 September)

  1. Hedgie says:

    Interesting how different individuals have different reactions to the same work; I reviewed this briefly a couple of months ago and ranked it as the best novel of the 80 or 90 I've read so far in 2009; I still think that.

    I also recommended it to two friends; both told me exactly the same thing in response, that each had to sit up well into the night to finish the book just to see what happened to the characters.

    And of course, besides math, it also has baseball!

  2. Alison says:

    There is also baseball, but I haven't been excited about baseball since 1997 (stupid Cleveland Indians) so… yeah. 🙂

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