The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The Housekeeper and the Professor By Yoko Ogawa

Translated by Stephen Snyder

Picador, New York , 2009

Borrowed from the library.  My thanks go to Amanda for first introducing me to this book.

A gentle, quiet novel that explores love, memory and loss.

An unnamed  Housekeeper is given a new client, a Professor of Mathematics who, through an accident, has lost his ability to remember things for more than 80 minutes.  She has been hired by his strident and distant Sister-in-law and ordered to care for his home and prepare his meals.

The Professor remembers everything from before the accident but the present is a mystery.  He tries to keep track of his life by attaching notes to his clothing.   His love of mathematics is really the only thing that keeps him going.  The relationship that grows between these two lonely people is a very fragile.  It is strengthened by the feelings the Professor develops for the Housekeeper’s son,  Root. Root and the Professor share a love of baseball and, they discover, a love of math.

He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers.  For him , primes were the base upon which all natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world. From page 130.

Ogawa used numbers and mathematical formulas as conversational tools.  The math is like poetry and helps to build a delightful story from very simple ingredients.  Snyder’s translation into English seems flawless and natural.  I enjoyed this book, like an early spring morning filled with birdsong.

Other reviews:


In Spring it is the Dawn

My Cozy Book Nook

NC Bookbunch

Save Ophelia

The Zen Leaf

Did I miss your review?


Filed under 2010 Global Reading Challenge, Fiction, InTranslation, New Authors 2010, Review

13 responses to “The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

  1. This sounds lovely! I bought it last month but still haven’t had a chance to read it. After reading your review, I want to curl up in a chair with it and just relax!

  2. It was a lovely little book. Even with its focus on math. :-D

    And I agree about the translation, it was beautifully done.

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book. I will definitely have to give it a try.

  4. This is a wonderful gem of a book. Our high school is considering it to be THE ONE and only book for the summer reading program because/hoping it will appeal to diverse interests.

  5. This books sounds great, in spite of all the mathiness. I’m terrible at math, but all the reviews I’ve read have said loving math is not a prereq for loving this book. :P

  6. JoV

    Yes! Here’s my review of the same book.

    And I have just posted the Global Reading Challenge on Ogawa’s other book, the Diving Pool.

    Such a coincidence to post my Ogawa review with yours,back-to-back!

  7. I willl check out you review of the Diving Pool!

  8. I willl check out your review of the Diving Pool!

  9. RFW

    Just finished and reviewed this, and your popped up at the bottom of my review.

    With the professor, math suddenly seemed doable.

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