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The Housekeeper and the Professor
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The Housekeeper and the Professor

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  12,108 ratings  ·  2,321 reviews
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 him. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship bl...more
Paperback, 180 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Picador (first published January 1st 2003)
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On originally reading a description of this novel I wondered if it was really for me. Did I want to read about a Professor with a memory span of 80 minutes and the Housekeeper who assists him? I'm so glad I decided to read it and I'm happy to have my own copy. This story of memory, math, building a pseudo-family where no relationship has existed before is full of love and compassion. The emotions are mostly expressed in mathematical theorems, cooking and random touch, but it is palpable througho...more
A highly polished, smooth, shining surface of a novel that was exquisitely crafted from start to finish. The voice was so understated and matter-of-fact that I would have had little trouble believing that this was an actual account of a real housekeeper remembering her experiences. There were very few authorial flourishes and all of them were appropriately put into the mouth of the strange, afflicted Professor, a math genius whose short-term memory only lasts 80 minutes.

A premise like that can b...more
This is a quietly wonderful book. When I was reading it I really liked it. Now that some time has passed I still think of it, and any book that I still remember months after reading is a book that deserves 5 stars. Although there is some advanced math in the story the author doesn't expect the reader to understand all of it. The numbers and math are used more to show the magic of numbers and how math brings an unlikely group of people together to form meaningful relationships.
This is a characte...more
Mar 04, 2013 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ashley by: Yulia
I’m not sure on which page I fell in love with the wrinkled, snowy-haired Professor in his rumpled suit with the scrap-paper reminders pinned all over it (the most important one being the note that reads “My memory lasts only eighty minutes”). I just know that about 50 pages from the end of the story, I found myself digging in my heels, wanting to linger over every last word. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a gently written, beautiful musing on the nature of friendship and familial love. An...more
A light but enjoyable read that scatters numbers, and facts about the brain, rather like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ( However, in other respects, it's very different, being set in Japan and being primarily about friendship.

The eponymous housekeeper is a young single mother (herself the only child of a single mother) with a ten-year-old son. She becomes daily housekeeper to a former maths professor whose head injury in 1975 means he...more
How can I possibly put this book into my own words? I can’t begin to imagine I could capture or convey to any of you, how this book made me feel. It took me two days to read and I wish I could have taken more time to read it – but I simply couldn’t put it down. The pages seemed to turn themselves and I didn’t really feel like I was reading at all.

This book moved me. It is a small ripple that travels a long way across calm waters. It is nothing ground shaking, nothing that makes you tumble and di...more
Petra Xtra Crunchy
This is a beautifully-written, elegant little book about an old man, a maths professor, his housekeeper and her young son. The professor's memory post-1975 is only 80 minutes long, so everything is fresh and new to him all the time, including the news his memory is only 80 minutes long. The housekeeper has her own problems but finds fulfillment in the relationship, ever renewed, between her son and the professor and her growing love for mathematics. It is a mark of the author's writing that the...more
This book is truly original, not your normal run of the mill. I highly recommend it. What is it about? It is about friendship and the beauty of numbers and baseball. And more..... Where should I start? I will start with the numbers. This is sort of the easiest to expalin. This book made me see and feel the beauty of math, of the laws that govern numbers. The world is so complicated. We understand nothing. Everything is always changing, but then you learn of a mathematical formula that is constan...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
The Professor is a brilliant mathematician who suffered some brain damage in an automobile accident years ago. He can remember his entire life up until the accident, but afterwards, he only has a memory of the past 80 minutes. Luckily, his sister-in-law steps in to help care for him. She hires housekeepers to come in to his little cottage and cook his meals. Needless to say, the Professor scares off many of these women. But then The Housekeeper comes along. She's something of a specialist in dif...more
I hate baseball, a game full of statistics and numbers. I hate math. But how could I possibly not love this writing and this book about love but not a love story?

"...The pages and pages of complex, impenetrable calculations might have contained the secrets of the universe, copied out of God's notebook.
In my imagination, I saw the creator of the universe sitting in some distant corner of the sky, weaving a pattern of delicate lace so fine that that even the faintest light would shine through it.
A great story, simple yet complex! The Professor has only eighty minutes of short-term memory, but can remember everything from before his car accident in 1975, including all kinds of complicated mathematical theorems and equations. His new housekeeper is a young woman with a ten-year-old son, who manages to see past his memory problems to the brilliant and sweet old man beneath. She soon comes to dote on him like a father. In turn, the Professor adores her son, whom he calls "Root" due to the f...more
I came to know about The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa unexpectedly while searching about Japanese authors in GR. I picked up it to read because it has an interesting blurb that the story is about a brilliant professor with anterograde amnesia (his memory retains only for 80 minutes) and an astute young housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him. It’s a small book, about 200 pages. The prose is so simple. I thought I will read it in three hours. After first...more
Taylor K.
I remember learning in my interpersonal communications class in college that your opinion of someone is mainly comprised of two moments: 1) your first impression of them (yes, it's that important), and 2) your most recent impression of them. All the times in-between may linger, but those two moments are the moments most responsible for your feelings.

So what would it be like if each of those moments is created anew, every 80 minutes? How would you form an opinion of or attachment to someone? Woul...more
Buddy Read with my lovely ragazza Cam

"For the professor, there was no shame in admitting you didn't have the answer, it was a necessary step toward the truth. It was as important to teach us about the unknown or the unknowable as it was to teach us what had already been safely proven.

There are books that shred you after you’ve read them. Authors that feel like they’ve written their books just for you. The House Keeper and The Professor is one of those books, and Yoko Ogawa is one of those autho...more
Stan Murai
The original Japanese title of Yoko Ogawa's 小川 洋子 novel The Housekeeper and the Professor is 博士の愛した数式 (hakase no ai shita suushiki), literally "The Professor's Beloved Equation". One day,the housekeeper who narrates the story is dispatched to the house of the professor, a former mathematician who can only retain new memories for only 80 minutes because of a brain injury. At first, she is frustrated to find that he only loves mathematics and shows no interest in anyone or anything else. However,...more
Some books stay with you. They make you pause, think and smile whenever they come into your mind. For me, this is definitely one of those books.

It is simple, gentle and character-driven, and it is also moving because it has so much insight into the human condition.

The Housekeeper is a single mother with a ten-year old son. She has a great deal of experience and she knows that she is good at her job, but when she is sent to work for The Professor, a virtuoso mathematician, she is worried.

Why? Wel...more
Che se poi ti rimane l’odore dell’aglio sulle dita, non è detto poi, sia così sgradevole

È confortante sapere che esiste una nazione il cui popolo e la delicatezza si sono inventati a vicenda. Sì, mio giovane amico, sto parlando del Giappone. No, in effetti non ci sono mai stata, ma ho letto parecchie cose che provengono da questa landa sconosciuta. In effetti, a volte basta leggere molto, per farsi un’idea su un’intera nazione.

E mi ero quasi convinta che in me, albergasse lo spirito di un camion...more
What a fantastic book. Charming. A very fast read, but I think to fully grasp it, it would require deep study. So I'm definitely going to buy it, so I can spend more time with it. So far I've read two Japanese authors this year, both new to me. I gave both books 5 stars. I've read 28 books this year, and so far only 3 of them are 5-star reads.

Her characters are so real, and the story rings so true, even though the idea of a person with an 80-minute memory seems a bit far-fetched. I can't describ...more

After reading the book summary, I drew an interest in this book because it sounded a little bit like 50 First Dates (one of my favorite movies). The story is about a math professor whose memory only lasts 80 minutes, and the housekeeper who takes care of him. Sadly, this book was anything but the magical and charming love story that all the reviews gave it.

Throughout the book, we never learn anyone's name, as everyone goes by The Housekeeper, Root, The Professor, and The Widow. The math part of

Joan Winnek
About halfway through. Intriguing. Most of the math I understand, and I've forgotten algebra. My experience of my husband's post stroke cognitive decline, especially abrupt in recent months, makes me aware of short-term memory loss, and as I have become more disabled in the past seven months I know the challenges of caregiving and having to find help. The three main characters are touchingly portrayed.

I finished the book today, and I did enjoy it all the way through and want to read more of Ogam...more
What a wonderful little book. How can a book which only shares the given name of one charachter, talks about math theories and problems so far over my head that I see stars AND talks about baseball and I'm not a sports fan at all be such a charming book. It is, it just is. I will not spoil it, just pick it up and give it a try. It's very short in pages but thick in love, caring and touching your heart.

"A moment later, I realized he was sobbing quietly. At first, I couldn't tell where the sound was coming from him - it sounded like the stuttering of a broken music box. These sobs were very different from the ones he'd cried when Root cut his hand; they were private, desolate, and for no one other than himself.
The Professor was reading the note clipped in the most prominent spot on his jacket, the one he could never avoid seeing as he got dressed. "My memory lasts only eighty minutes.""

There wa...more
There is something about the exquisite writing of Japanese and Chinese authors which I have a desire to understand.

This novel of a mathematician, who only has a memory that lasts 80 minutes, and the single mother housekeeper and her son who work for him is a masterful work. Ogawa has an ability to depict intricate scenes with few words. She evokes truly human emotions and understanding in just a phrase. Perhaps the most amazing part of the writing is the ability to invoke the heart-clenching fe...more
Vera Choo
When I first read the introduction initially, I was thinking "Shit, are the remaining chapters going to be all about formulas and mathematics? Urgh!". However, as I continued reading it, I was thrilled by the turn of events when the housekeeper went to the professor's house for the first time.

The way the professor treats Root truly amazes me as I have always thought that since he could not remember much, he must be a heartless creature locked in his own world. However ,I thought wrong. In fact,...more
This is a true love story, though not a physical or romantic one. It is the story of love for mathematics, baseball and for those who accept you just as you are. It features the most unlikely of characters; a housekeeper who is a single mom, her illegitimate son and a professor who has lost all but 80 minutes of his short term memory. She cares for him with amazing tenderness and compassion while he and the son form a lifetime bond. Even though he often forgets who they are and why they are ther...more
This is a very intimate book. If you have ever dealt with somebody that has memory problems you will feel the connections and how personal those issues are.
Lance Greenfield
This was such a comfortable read for me and touched me at many different levels.

Firstly, it is a very engaging story, involving just a small number of equally engaging characters. The two main characters are in the title, but they are brought together by their strong feelings for the third character in the book, the housekeeper's son, Root.

Of course, as explained in the blurb, that is just the Professor's nickname for the ten-year-old boy, and the name refers to the shape of his profile and its...more
Wow, what a wonderful book this is! Who would have thought that a book that contains quite a lot of mathematical formulae, lots of discussion of number theory, and detailed descriptions of Japanese baseball games and players could also be so warm, so human, and so utterly endearing?

I finished the book last night and just sat there, staring into space, savoring the pleasure of it all. As I don't speak or read Japanese, I can only imagine that the translator must be absolutely brilliant, because t...more
A perfect little novel. A housekeeper goes to work for a math professor who, due to a previous head injury, can only remember things for 80 minutes. He can remember everything up to his head injury, but everything that happens after that can be remembered only for 80 minutes, and then it disappears as if it had never happened. He covers his clothes in post-it notes that serve as reminders for him. The most important one says "my memory is only eighty minutes long" and he wears this on his sleeve...more
I recently read this book so that I could interview the translator, Stephen Snyder, for my radio show, _Translated By_. I read this book and two out of the three novellas in _The Diving Pool_ (also by Yoko Ogawa and translated by Stephen Snyder). I LOVED both books. (The only reason I didn't finish _The Diving Pool_ is that I was under deadline for the show and teaching, and reading two books in two days is tricky business.) I will try to read the final novella in _The Diving Pool_ today.

Ogawa h...more
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Bound Together: Housekeeper & Professor discussion 50 131 Jan 20, 2013 05:22PM  
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Yōko Ogawa (小川 洋子) was born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya with her husband and son. Since 1988, she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Professor and his Beloved Equation has been made into a movie. In 2006 she co-authored „An Introduction to the World's Most Elegant Mathematics“ with Masahiko Fujiwar...more
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“Solving a problem for which you know there’s an answer is like climbing a mountain with a guide, along a trail someone else has laid. In mathematics, the truth is somewhere out there in a place no one knows, beyond all the beaten paths. And it’s not always at the top of the mountain. It might be in a crack on the smoothest cliff or somewhere deep in the valley.” 28 likes
“He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers. For him, primes were the base on which all other natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world” 26 likes
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