Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (Trans. in English by Stephen Snyder)

Synopsis: 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 the Professor.
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.
Yoko Ogawa's 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. (from the inside cover of the book)

Review: This is a gently, lyrics story that deals with memory, family, and what makes a good life. With only an 80 minute window of memory, the Professor is stuck in a loop of uncertainty. He clings to his numbers, his beautiful mathematics, for security. The Housekeeper, a woman whose life is closed and colorless, learns from him about a wider place for the soul, and his relationship with her son opens the world for both the Professor and the boy. The math, woven like a scarlet thread through the story, adds an interesting tone to the narrative.
While I enjoyed this book, it didn’t strike me as deep as others, or perhaps, as I expected. It is a good story: gentle, pleasing, peaceful. It’s an excellent read for a quiet rainy day, with a cup of tea at your side. But I did not find the magic of the narrative that others described. Worth reading, even so. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: Hon'ya Taisho Award (Japan Booksellers Award)

ISBN: 978-0-312-42780-1
Year Published: 2003 (English Edition, 2009)
Date Finished: 1-17-2016
Pages: 180

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