The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel
by Yoko Ogawa
Paperback- $14.86

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem?ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of ...

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  "beautiful and simple" by sluce (see profile) 01/20/10

this is beautifully written book that sneaks up on you with it simplicity - not for every reader, but a gem none the less

  "Not an American Novel! Read this Japanese novel--the translation is brilliant." by Tanya.Hodge (see profile) 02/23/10

  "‘Math has proven the existence of God, because it is absolute and without contradiction; but the devil must exist as well, because we cannot prove it.’" by 1morechapter (see profile) 02/14/11

Absolutely wonderful — I loved this book!!

Have you seen the movie 50 First Dates? It’s one of my favorite movies, and a very similar situation occurs in this book. A mathematics professor has only 80 minutes of short term memory due to a car accident, but he remembers everything clear as a bell that happened before his head injury. He continues to solve mathematical proofs and has an uncanny ability to know exactly where the North Star is in the sky, even when there’s no visibility. He is kind and has a great love for children. But, he remembers only 80 minutes at a time in the here and now. His sister-in-law lets him live in a cottage next to her main house, and she has hired a ninth housekeeper to cook and clean for the professor.

The housekeeper does her best to please the professor and works around his disability. She tells him about her 10 year old son, and he insists on letting the son come to his cottage after school, even though it’s against the cleaning agency’s rules. The professor writes notes to himself to help remind him of the housekeeper and her son. The boy and the professor both have a love of baseball, and the professor uses this to teach the boy mathematics. Soon a strong bond is formed among the three of them.

There is quite a bit of math in this book, and of course I enjoyed those references tremendously. I have an engineering degree, and mathematics has always been a love of mine. I don’t think you have to know math like I do to enjoy this book, but you will certainly appreciate the beauty of it a bit more if you do.

‘Eternal truths are ultimately invisible, and you won’t find them in material things or natural phenomena, or even in human emotions. Mathematics, however, can illuminate them, can give them expression — in fact, nothing can prevent it from doing so.’

Very highly recommended!!

  "The Housekeeper and the Professor" by SCongdon (see profile) 02/25/11

  "The Housekeeper and the Professor" by kathers (see profile) 03/10/11

The realtionship between the 3 main characters is different because of the professors lack of memory. I did skip over some of the math but enjoyed learning other math concepts!

  "Sweet but..." by mizbilli (see profile) 03/10/11

Great premise - and I know the author has done remarkable work - not much for creating a setting, little on main characters - the math was a little overwhelming and I just glossed over that after the first few chapters - very generic - took a while to realize what country this was set in which did help explain the discipline practiced....

  "A Sweet Story" by mabook (see profile) 03/15/11

This is one of the sweetest stories I've read in a long time. Don't be put off by the "math" in the story - you will love the Professor, his care and concern for the Housekeeper's 10 year old son, and his mysterious relationship with his sister-in-law. Did I also mention that baseball is part of the story? You will be unable to put this book down.

  "no point" by thebettertwin20 (see profile) 06/12/11


  "the novel really had nothing to say" by mcrchick (see profile) 06/12/11

  "Short book--Long discussion" by bookmoot (see profile) 06/16/11

Great conversation about the constancy of mathematics. Had a former math teacher there who gave more background on the some of the theories and mathematical principals discussed. Sweet tender story.

  "A lovely story" by AliceB (see profile) 08/17/11

An interesting tale from a house-maid's perspective.

  "Lovely novella about unique relationships & memory" by mystryrdr (see profile) 04/11/13

It's a short story but was really poignant & and interesting. Sort of like the movie, Memento, it makes you consider what life would be like if you had only memories of a decade or so earlier and then just a short strip of short term memory constantly moving forward. Imagine waking up like the Professor each day not knowing that it's not still the 1970's and that you won't remember this moment two hours from now.

  "Understated and Brief - A Japanese novel" by vlj1120 (see profile) 01/10/14

This is a quiet book with an intimate story about the poetry of numbers and the beauty of personal connection. There's also quite a bit about Japanese culture, baseball, and memory loss.

  "" by karl13 (see profile) 12/08/16

  "Disappointed" by bmedvid (see profile) 10/24/17

Told from the housekeeper’s perspective, this novel starts with the introduction of a brilliant math professor to his new housekeeper. Due to an accident, the professor’s memories reset every eighty minutes. When we meet him, he is covered in sticky notes that remind him of who people are and where he has placed things. He has been through a number of other housekeepers already and is considered difficult. The housekeeper, a single mother, has a ten-year-old son who the professor names Root, as the hair on the top of his head reminds the professor of a square root symbol. Except for the nickname Root, these characters remain nameless. The novel focuses on the interactions between these three characters.

I found the math tidbits, like amicable numbers, shared by the professor to be interesting. I was not aware of many of them, so that was a plus and I used those facts to initiate conversations with my husband who was also a math major. The professor’s mind for numbers never failed him (even as his memory for other things did) and when forced to, this is the way he interacts with those around him and the world. The housekeeper, while insecure about her knowledge of even basic math, is intrigued by the math questions/beauty that the professor presents. She is unafraid of a challenge and is determined to apply herself and do her best in all situations.

The novel’s main theme revolves around family, especially the unlikely ways in which we create our own family. The professor was portrayed as the consummate professor – patient, inspiring, questioning, encouraging, and challenging to both Root and the housekeeper. His relationship with Root was tender and charming, as he became a surrogate grandfather to him. The housekeeper becomes more than a housekeeper as she is the professor’s main caretaker. The three of them create an unconventional family with their own rhythms and traditions.

With this being an intergenerational relationship novel about a brilliant math teacher plus the intriguing memory premise, it should have been a home run for me. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Despite its certain strengths, I did not like this story. The pace was too slow, the relationships were too sweet and even the tragic circumstances surrounding the characters could not mitigate that. Even though the novel was set in modern day Japan, I did not get a sense of the culture or place. The novel could have been set in Middle-America and not lost or gained anything. Ultimately, I was disappointed by this novel and would not recommend it to others.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/09/19

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