Monday, January 11

Book Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor

Title: The Housekeeper and the Professor

Author: Yoko Ogawa

Pages: 180

Summary: He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.
She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The Housekeeper and the Professor was a well written, heart-warming novel, which was hard to put down. The names of the characters are never revealed in the book, just the nickname of the housekeeper’s son, Root, named because his head looks like the square root sign. But, despite having nameless characters, the reader is able to connect to the characters on an emotional level, and is brought into the world of mathematics and baseball as it draws the three characters of the book closer together in an everlasting friendship.

The book is a beautiful story of two people from separate worlds, and despite the fact the professor has no memory of ever meeting the housekeeper, each day they manage to connect to each other and build this intriguing “friendship”. Math and baseball are a big part of this friendship and there connection, which is an odd combination. I’m not a fan of either math or baseball, but the author did a wonderful job at incorporating these into the story and showing the characters love for both. As well as engage the reader in both subjects. I was also surprised in how she used math literally, often explaining certain mathematical problems or terms as they are, in expanded form, rather than just explain them in passing, a very unique quality of the book. Although at times it made my head spin, other times I tried to figure out the math problems the professor gave to the young son, before the answer was revealed. (Which is an amazing feat, because I hate math with a passion, I’m terrible at math, I could care less about math yet the author drew me in and had me curious about it and wanting to know the answer to these odd problems.)

The professor was a remarkable character, who you really felt sorry for, and could see the struggles he went threw knowing he only had 80 minutes of memory, or at least waking up everyday and finding out he only had 80 minutes of memory. (The 80 minutes of memory is only for recent memories, everything in his mind before the accident that caused his memory loss is still in tact, which is why he’s able to remember mathematical equations etc). Either way, the author’s ability to show this struggle was incredible. I can’t even imagine what it will be like to be in a situation like this.

Overall this was a wonderful story following, two extraordinary characters and the friendship they build using mathematics and baseball. A must read.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes, I would recommend this book to read. It's very well down, the author has a great ability to write a quality story, and it has a lot of unique qualities to it. It is also an incredible story of heartwarming friendship which will be hard to put down.

What to read next: Hmm, one suggestion would be to investigate more works by Yoko Ogawa. And I checked LibraryThings recommendations and one of them was Little Giant of Aberdeen County. Although if you really enjoy math, you could also pick a math book up ;)

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
Countdown Challenge, Global Challenge, NaJuReMoNoMo, New Author Challenge,
Support Your Library Challenge


  1. I'm glad you liked this one. It was so beautiful and while I'm good at math, I find it boring, and the math here was never boring to me.

  2. Hmm...I can't say I'll be reading this one any time soon, but I did enjoy the review! The combination of the story and elements sounds rather unique (baseball and math). I don't believe I've seen quite that combo before...and living with only 80 minutes of short term that's a problem I would not want to fathom dealing with. Thanks for sharing!

  3. It sounds like a really good book. If only there were more weeks in the year. My 52/52 list is past 30 already! Once I get a good rythm going, I might add this one to my list.

    So many good books, so little time!

  4. Wait a sec, so
    -it's a book
    -it's got cherry blossoms on the cover
    -it seems to have a Japanese author
    -it's about a math professor

    And plus it sounds awesome. This is SO a book for me!

  5. This was a wonderful little book, even with all of the math. :-D Unlike you, I didn't attempt a single problem.

  6. Awesome review! I loved this book as well and gave it a super positive review. I really liked the relationship between the old man and the boy. It was a sad book, but also, in a strange way, hopeful. Glad it was such a great read for you!

  7. Amanda - The author did do a good job at making sure the math wasn't boring. Where were these types of teachers when I was in school? Making math teachers make math more interesting should be in the teacher's hand book.

    GMR - It is a very odd combination, I didn't realize the baseball side of things until I looked it up on good reads and saw it in the tags. And I also wouldn't want to deal with the short term memory, that would be awful.

    Our Westmoreland School - My 52/52 list is whatever book I read/review first during each week gets used. Hopefully you get a chance to read this book soon.

    Brizmus - yes it has all of those, glad you found a book for you. Let me know when you read/review it. I'll be interested in seeing your thoughts.

    Softdrink - I guess math can be fun, sometimes.

    Zibilee - the relationship between the man and boy was also well done. It was such an interesting friendship. I agree with you on how the story is sad, but also hopeful. Glad you enjoyed the review.

  8. This sounds like an awesome book. Putting it on my list now.