Review The Housekeeper and the Professor

Review thatpbyyo The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder, 2003 / Picador 2009 (English version), 180 pages.

First Sentences:    We called him the Professor.  And he called my son Root, because, he said, the flat top of his head reminded him of the square root sign.

MOTIVATION FOR READING:    June’s IRL Bookclub Selection.    And, I vividly recall Ali’s enthusiam (click here for Worducopia’s review) so I was quite excited that this was proposed and voted in for this month’s discussion.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT:     A housekeeper is hired to cook and clean for an elderly man who, as a result of a brain injury from a car accident, can only rely on his short term memory in 80 minute increments.   In other words, he has to ‘meet’ his ‘new’ housekeeper EVERY DAY as if for the first time!

WHAT’s GOOD:   The character development.   The tender endearing respect between all the characters.   The easy explanations of interesting* mathematical concepts.   The layering and weaving together of appreciation for education and children, love of baseball, and how a work situation can foster a unique friendship.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    The underlying and underexplained tensions and misunderstanding of the lady who pays the bills.       Very minor, could have been me missing something key, I’m sure.     I will wait for bookclub to have this explored further.

FINAL THOUGHTS:      I am hesitant to add more about why I love this book because so many of my wonderful readers of this blog already make enough fun of me for liking mathematics.     Again – my advice is to go read Ali’s review!!!       If I tell you that this book has plenty of math in it, I am afraid some of you will decide NOT to read this and that would be a pity. I read this in one day (sorry Gail or THANK YOU GAIL!  I was subbing for YOU when I read this but saved the last ten pages for home, in case I had to cry.)     I did tear up a lot;    I even got teary listening to this country song the other day – so it only goes to show you that I can be extremely sentimental…

Rating:      FOUR PIES!


I prefer pi, too, you know…   ♥

*  Seriously, some math concepts are incredibly interesting!   Give this a chance!   Don’t let my inner math geek scare you off this book.

20 thoughts on “Review The Housekeeper and the Professor

  1. Oh, I really really want to read this even though math is my weak subject, I think it’s awesome that YOU like it! There are a lot of closet math nerds in the book blogging world. 😉

    Quite a few science geeks, too. Just more examples of the diversity in book blogging, right?

  2. I’ve been wanting to read this. I’ll bump it up higher in the pile.

    Bump it up! It IS tough to keep re-sorting and sorting the ol’ tbr, isn’t it?

  3. I don’t like math when it’s untidy – lots of decimal places are chaotic and give me a headache. From what I’ve heard, I got the impression that the professor in question uses math to impose order on his life. Is that right? I really want to read this!

    You are correct – math should be tidy and add order to chaos. Definitely explained in a similar fashion in the book.

  4. I’ve been interested in reading this ever since I first heard of it (though I can’t remember where that was anymore). It sounds like such a moving story.

    Also, I think it’s awesome that you like maths!

    I do like maths! I’m a firm believer that it is important to tell yourself you like something if you want to be good at it.

  5. Thanks for the mention, Care. And let me just reiterate, in case anyone made the grave error of not clicking over to my review, that you don’t have to be a fan of math in order to be a fan of this book. But the fact that Care is a fan of math made me want to send it to her immediately after finishing it.

    I’m only showing 3-4 clicks over to your blog – why do you think that is!?

  6. I was supposed to get a copy of this from Picador, but it never came. I’m so bummed. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Back onto the wish list it goes!

    I just accepted a free book – I’m looking forward to it! This will be the 3rd book I’ve ever gotten from any official mktg entity so I’m a bit nervous – the others were disasters.

  7. I had not heard of this book, so I’m glad I came by and got introduced to it.
    I have heard of “math” before. Last time I checked, I liked math. So that will only enhance the experience. Thanks!

    Too funny. I’m glad you wandered over here, too. 🙂

  8. I saw this in Bookmarks magazine last weekend and thought it looked interesting. It’ll pop up over here soon since it’s Japanese.

    Oh, it IS interesting! I’m curious how it’ll be as a book club book. I hope everyone likes it as much as I did.

  9. hmmm…sounds good, I like the first line. Although I don’t like math very much I’m okay if it’s in a novel. I don’t like those “only” math books.

    And even if you gloss over what may seem like heavy theory, you’ll get the tenderness of the story…

  10. verbivore

    Very glad to hear you liked this one, it’s on my list to read this summer. I have read one or two short stories by Ogawa and I like her style (I may have read an except of this already, but I’m not sure).
    Pi…you crack me up.

    Pi or pie – I love it! (It’s in the book.)

  11. I’m one of those who hates math but the book sounds wonderful to me so it’s going on my radar 🙂

    Did you ever read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? There were a few math puzzles in that one which I admit I sort of skipped over but I loved that book.

    I DID read The Curious Incident! and yes, I do believe the math(s) added to my appreciation of that book. Don’t worry, the Professor doesn’t stress the reader too hard at all at testing anyone’s math skills.

  12. Even though I don’t like math (and why do the Europeans say maths??) this one is on the list of books to check out.

    I don’t know; why DO the Europeans say maths? Maybe because the word mathematics has an ‘s’?

  13. Pingback: The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa « The Zen Leaf

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