The Housekeeper and the Professor

…by Yoko Ogawa.

Set in Japan, the novel is about a man, gifted mathematician, once a Professor, who now suffers from a illness. Due to an accident  he was in involved in decades ago his memory only lasts eighty minutes. Everything that happened prior to the accident, he remembers, but since he injury his mind is only capable of handling eighty minutes at a time. His sister-in-law, the only person that is his family now, looks out for him and makes sure he is taken care of.

She (the sister-in-law) hires a housekeeper, a young mother of a ten year old, to take care of the Professor’s basic day to day needs. The story is about how the Professor bonds with the Housekeeper and her soon, whom he nicknames Root.

The Housekeeper is mesmerized by the Professor’s passion for mathematics and learns quite a lot from him about the subject, given that their normal conversations revolve around the subject. And the Professor finds comfort in Root’s company – they share a special interest in baseball, apart from the being intrigued by math. The story goes on to reveal how, in spite of his illness, the Professor, the Housekeeper and the child go on to make a create this beautiful relationship that brings all of them immense joy.

This is a poignant tale of bonds that we share with people other than family. I loved reading each and every word of the book – what attracted me at first was the mathematics part, but what stayed behind after I finished reading the book are the sentiments that are so well captured. A reassuring tale that true love (in the most platonic sense) has the power to go above and beyond any barrier.

The author’s words is like a stream – calming the reader, yet creating anxiety every now and then. I loved how I was always left wanting more whenever I closed the book. The flow is flawless and the writing is simple – making it a quick and easy read.

Beware, though, that if you are not a big fan of math or baseball, you might find parts of the novel drag, for there are many references to those subjects. You don’t have to know it all, but as long as you don’t mind reading through couple of paragraphs about number theory or baseball season, then it should be a pleasant read.

Overall, a compelling tale that revolves around companionship. I highly recommend it.

My rating: 4*.

*for the rating scale, click here.