Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Publisher: Picador (February 3, 2009)
Paperback:  180 pages
Rating: of 5 stars

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.


I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this.

There’s a great cast of characters: The math professor, who can only remembers the last 80 minutes of his life; the young Housekeeper, while professional, she also strives to better understand and help her client; Root, the housekeeper’s son who comes to befriend the Professor; and the Professor’s sister-in-law who had hired the Housekeeper.

None of the characters are ever named, except for Root, but even that is just a nickname the Professor came up with. But that works for the story. I’m able to get just as invested in these characters as if they had been named. In essence, we’re able to connect with them on that level beyond the name, where we’re able to see the person. The label and titles only help to exemplify that.

As the premise promises, there is definitely an abundance of math used in the book. But as the Professor states, there is an elegance in it. As someone who avoided math in college (successfully), this book made me see the beauty in the numbers and equations, all while interweaving it with the characters’ lives.

A fiction novel for any who want a good, easy read. It explores the nature of relationships and people. And would even appeal to those like me, who are a bit math-phobic.


Find Yoko Ogawa:

Website | Goodreads

Purchase the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Author: Kim

Everything can be made better with a good book or some relaxing knits. 😀 Find me on IG @kimberlyh12 or on Twitter @enervated.

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