Monday 24 October 2011


Book review: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

My edition: Paperback, published in 2010 by Vintage, 180 pages.

Description: He is a brilliant math professor, with a peculiar problem--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 between them a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms.

Though the professor can hold new memories for only eighty minutes, his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past; and through him, the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the housekeeper and her son.


The Housekeeper and the Professor is a sweet and quirky little novel that I finished for the most part in one sitting. Yes, this is partly due to the fact that it's a small book, but also because it's an interesting read.

A mathematician gets into an accident in 1975 and since then he's had severe problems with his short term memory: he only remembers what happened during the last 80 minutes of his life and anything from before his accident in 1975.

We get to know, and love, the brilliant professor through the eyes of the new housekeeper and her son, nicknamed Root.

With a heavy focus on maths and numbers this book stands out not only because of its subject matter (which provides similar dilemmas as set out in the YA novel Forgotten which I read recently, but as the characters are vastly different it didn't feel like I was reading the same story twice).

Having never been particularly interested in maths myself, after finishing the novel I can honestly say I learned a few new things and none of it felt like a chore.

Instead author Yoko Ogawa managed to make the various facts about the numbers highlighted in the novel fascinating and a joy to read about.

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