Rated Reads

The Housekeeper and the Professor

by Yoko Ogawa

Rated: None

This book was recommended to me by a friend who also recommended the book E=MC2. That book was the history of the equation. I’m not a fan of math, so I didn’t make it very far in the book. This book also involved a lot of math, but on a level that was interesting to me.

The story takes place in Japan and is of a man, the Professor, who suffered a head injury many years before that affected his memory. He can remember everything up until the accident, but his short-term memory only lasts 80 minutes. Before the accident, he was a mathematics professor and had solved a very important equation. As a man in his fifties, he spends his days and evenings in his small, disorderly cottage working on math puzzles for magazine contests.

The story is told from the housekeeper’s point of view. When she is hired by the Professor’s sister-in-law she can tell by the housekeeping agency’s record that he’s already been through quite a few housekeepers. Each day they begin their ritual the same way, with her introducing herself as his housekeeper and pointing to the note he’s pinned to his suit where he’s written a note reminding him that he has a new housekeeper. A very important note also pinned to his suit reminds him that his memory only lasts 80 minutes. After that introduction, he’ll ask her shoe size or birthday. With this number he’ll be able to tie it to a great mathematical equation, or a rare prime number and will let her enter his home.

When the Professor finds out the housekeeper has a 10-year-old son, he insists that she bring him with her. Root (so named by the Professor because his flat head reminds him of the square root symbol) and the professor share a special bond that not even the housekeeper can completely understand. The housekeeper tries to improve the Professor’s life, taking him for haircuts, to baseball games (a favorite sport of his because of the math involved), and celebrating with him when he’s won the math puzzle contests in the magazines. She’s trying to give him a better life without noticing that the Professor, a great teacher, is piquing her interest in mathematics and learning in general, amazing herself, as a high school dropout, at what she’s able to learn from his teaching.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read at under 200 pages. I enjoyed the simple math that was involved, actually making me see math in a different way than I always have without overwhelming me. And I admired the housekeeper for what she tried to do for this man that no one else had, being his friend, even though he couldn’t remember her from day to day.

Rated: None. No language or sexual references.

— Reviewed by Nancy Minster

Nancy Minster is an avid reader, is married to an avid reader and is the mother to four little kids who seem to like books as well. One can only wonder where they get it from!

One Response to The Housekeeper and the Professor

  1. Craig says:

    I read this book solely based on the review here at Rated Reads, and was not disappointed. A gentle, interesting story.

  • The Housekeeper and the Professor
  • by Yoko Ogawa
  • Rated: None
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: