Sunday, June 6, 2010

Book Review - The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa

Title: The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel
Author: Yoko Ogawa
Year: 2009 
Page: 192 
Genre: Fiction

New to me author? Yes 
Read this author again? Maybe 
Tearjerker? No 
Where did it take place? Japan
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
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.

First Sentence:
We called him the professor.
Why did I pick this book?
I've heard of this book before and saw some reviews, but Kals @ Pemberley's review really made me want to read this!

My thoughts:
  • I love the cover, and the book has deckle pages! :) I don't know why but I like books with deckle pages - just one of those little things that made you exclaimed "Oh! I like that!" without a reason
  • For some reasons, when I read this book, the thought "this is a quiet little book" kept popping into my head. I don't know what "a quiet book" means, but I just keep thinking it. Almost felt like one of those association games - you know, you are shown a picture or a word, and you have to respond with a word as quickly as possible without giving it much thought? 
  • I like the characters fine, they are distinctive from other characters I'd read about, and they are believable and likable. I especially like the relationship between the Professor and the Housekeeper's son, Root (the Professor named him Root because he has a flat hair style and resembled the square root sign in math.) I wish she had elaborated on the Sister-In-Law character a little more, there is some mystery about her that wasn't fully explained. I can guess what had happened from the Professor's side, but not from her side of the story. I also didn't really understand the significance of the Euler's formula [e (to the power of pi * i) + 1 = 0] - the one the Professor scribbled to the Sister-In-Law, and why she behaved the way she did when she saw it?
  • While I do not love math, I don't hate it either. I found it fun to learn some new math facts from this book! You may not look at numbers the same way after that!
  • It also makes you think - what would happen if I can only remember for 80 minutes, then my memory from the previous 80 minutes just disappeared, just wiped out without I even knowing it? 
  • Would have given it 4 stars, but the ending was a bit anti-climatic for me so deduct 1/2 star for it (I love a good shocking ending!) Since this is yet another book with "A Novel" in the title, maybe I shouldn't expect a surprise ending?


    He had a special feeling for what he called the "correct miscalculation," for he believed that mistakes were often as revealing as the right answers. (p2)

    "I feel empty when Root isn't here," I said.
    I hadn't really been speaking to him, but the Professor murmured in reply, "So, you're saying that there's a zero in you?" (P140)

    Rating: 3.5 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading


    1. I'm glad you found the book worth reading. It was so different and I adored it! Lovely, unforgettable characters and easy, pleasant writing :)

    2. I enjoyed he book and reviewed it for last year's Japanese Reading challenge III. I'm joining Challenge IV this year, which is hosted by Dolce Bellezza at Here's
      My Sunday Salon

    3. Great review.

      I read this book in March and reviewed it as well. Here's the link:

    4. @Kals - yes the characters are definitely different!

      @Book Bird Dog - thanks for letting me know about the Japanese Reading challenge! I should read more non-US books...

      @Janna - thanks for posting the link of your review! Will go read!