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The Housekeeper and the Professor

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  33,956 ratings  ·  5,475 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
Paperback, 180 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Picador (first published August 2003)
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Life by the Numbers

Numbers are everywhere - Real, Natural, Imaginary, Perfect, Amicable, Abundant, Deficient, Triangular, Prime (including both Mersenne and Pernicious as well as Twins) to name a few. And they're all here in The Housekeeper and the Professor, which Ms. Ogawa wrote in 2007. The Professor is of mathematics and has amnesia; the housekeeper is devoted and has a son. This melange constitutes the cast of a charming story of mathematics and love, subjects with a connection that is less
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, japan, baseball
Happy Cubs opening day! 2018 has not been the reading year I had planned on so far. Real life and the stress that goes with it have gotten in the way of being able to focus on reading. Hopefully that changes. In the meantime in honor of the Cubs first home game this year, I am reposting my favorite baseball book from last year, a lovely novella that I am fortunate did not fly under my radar. The Housekeeper and the Professor was recommended to me by my Goodreads' friend Diane because she knows t ...more
Jim Fonseca
The story is set in Japan. A housekeeper is hired to clean and cook for an elderly former mathematics professor who suffered a brain injury. (He’s 64 – is that elderly? lol) He can only remember new things for 80 minutes. So each day when she arrives at his house she has to re-introduce herself. Every day he asks her some numerical question ranging from her birthday to her shoe size and he expounds about some unique aspect of the numbers of her response. Over time, of course, he asks her the sam ...more
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
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amicable numbers – pair of keyrings Nerd Romance (

Not that kind of love story, but a sad, sweet story about an unlikely friendship between a brilliant mathematician, his housekeeper and her son. There is love just no romance.

The Professor is 64 years old. He suffered a brain injury at age 47. He has an 80-minute retention for new memories ever since his accident. He covers his suit in notes to remember new information. He loves math, numbers, children an
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
In comparison with Ogawa's The Memory Police and Hotel Iris, this story is particularly gentle and sweet. Naturally, that means it didn't grab me by the neck like her other work. But it did have its way of getting in and tugging those heartstrings.

This is a short novel about a woman (the housekeeper) who comes to care for her employer (the professor), who is a mathematical genius, but who also has a very limited short term memory (80 minutes).

Because he starts fresh every 80 minutes, the present
Ahmad Sharabiani
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
博士の愛した数式 = Hakase no ai Shita Suushiki = The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yōko Ogawa

The Housekeeper and the Professor is a novel by Yōko Ogawa set in modern-day Japan. It was published in August 2003.

The story centers around a mathematician, "the Professor," who suffered brain damage in a traffic accident in 1975 and since then can produce only 80 minutes' worth of memories, and his interactions with a housekeeper (the narrator) and her son "Root" as the Professor shares the beauty of equati
An enjoyable Japanese novel that scatters numbers, and facts about the brain, though it's primarily about friendship. It feels light, but prompts profound questions.

The sit

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 only remembers the most recent 80 minutes, plus things before 1975, nearly 20 years before the story is set (~1992)
A wonderful, heart-warming story about unlikely friendships....and math...and baseball! I decided to grab this one for my Japanese reading challenge for 2018 and it was the perfect story to begin reading. It's heavy into math, which I must say, I'm a bit rusty on. I was at one time fascinated by numbers, going to the highest level of math courses in college, and working for my college math professor. But then...I just lost interest in numbers (as along came computers! Nerd!)

The story is of the f
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it

The Housekeeper and the Professor is a charming and enjoyable novella about eponymous Professor of mathematics who due to accident years earlier suffers from peculiar form of amnesia and while he remembers everything from the past his current memory lasts only eighty minutes, and as a reminder of this fact he has fitting note pinned to his suit. In fact Professor has plenty notes on him that rustle when he walks. It also is a story about his housekeeper, young single mother and her son named b
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With only 192 pages, it is a breeze. A delightful pause. A little gem of fantasmagoric proportions. An ode to maths. And a Dennis The Menace- moment in nostalgia.

The Dennis The Menace-moment.(view spoiler)
Petra-X Off having adventures
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Everyone and their mother read this last year for Women in Translation month (August 2016), and I remember finding my own copy at the annual literacy book sale. I set it aside for WIT month this year and was happy to pull it back out.

The housekeeper is a single parent, trying to make enough to live on, and the professor is a mathematician with a failing memory. The story is about connection and care but also MATH and anyone who knows me knows I'm a sucker for math. The professor can't remember p
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, asia, fiction, 2020
A poignant and touching story about a very special housekeeper with qualities of empathy, gentleness and kindness without which this would be a very different story. This housekeeper cares for a math professor who has a brain injury from an accident and, as a result, only has 80 minutes of short term memory. Ten housekeepers prior to our angelic one have failed with him. But the housekeeper in the story shares and gives all that she has to comfort and care for the professor, including her son. A ...more
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Math has never liked me, and if you make me sit through an entire baseball game, I cry. So how is it that I am about to tell you that a book that is largely concerned with math and baseball has captured my heart? Yoko Ogawa has convinced me, without really trying, that math is beautiful, in a way my college algebra teacher was unable to.

Eternal truths are ultimately invisible, and you won’t find them in material things or natural phenomena, or even in human emotions. Mathematics, however, can i
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
This tale charms us with the friendship that develops between a young housekeeper and her 12-year old son with an elderly recluse and former mathematics professor. Though he can’t retain new memories beyond 80 minutes, his 50-plus years of skills developed as a mathematician prior to the accident and brain damage that disabled him are still accessible to him. These skills he creatively puts to use each day trying to figure out and live in whatever social world of people falls his way as if anew. ...more
Aug 10, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 Star

The Housekeeper + The Professor by Yoko Ogawa is a heart-warming story about a housekeeper, a professor and the housekeeper’s ten year old son but also and most importantly a story about what it means to live in the present, and about friendships, family and respect and a little Math thrown in for good measure.

"He is a brilliant maths professor who lives with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is a sensitive and astute young housekeeper who is entrusted to take care of him"

Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Needed a few days to gather my thoughts on this book. The end result of the the few days brought me clarity. What a wonderful, simplistic narrative of a true friendship. What a beautiful, heartfelt book! One that everyone should read! 😥
My only experience with Yoko Ogawa before now was her terrific short story collection Revenge, and though I'd heard that all of her books are drastically different from one another, I think I still expected to see a bit of Revenge's dark and macabre tone here. Instead, The Housekeeper and the Professor is utterly and unapologetically charming.

It focuses on the relationship between a housekeeper, her son, and a man whose house she's assigned to by her agency, who she refers to only as 'the Profes
Connie G
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely story where kindness turns unrelated people into a family. The Housekeeper is hired to cook and keep house for a Professor of mathematics who had a traumatic brain injury after a car accident. Although the Professor can remember events that happened before the TBI, this injury resulted in his short-term memory lasting only eighty minutes. It seems like they are meeting for the first time every day.

The Housekeeper and her ten year old son interact quite well with the professor s
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had I known at the time that “mistakes were often as revealing as the right answer” and I probably wouldn’t have been such a lousy maths student. Well, to be fair I was beyond lousy. I was literally a numerical disaster waiting to happen. I can still remember the teacher’s face after I had given an answer to a problem as if it happened yesterday. I can still feel my face burning the way it did every time I was called to the blackboard to solve an equation.

Till this day I honestly don’t know if
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it

After our first full day visiting Japan in 2011, I saw a baseball game on TV (had to be a replay because it was December): the Yakult Swallows versus the Hanshin Tigers. I recognized Matt Murton of the Tigers who'd briefly played for the Chicago Cubs and the name of the 40-year-old Miyamoto. Two evenings later, in Nara, we got caught up in a small parade on the main street and as it ended, a young man straddling a bicycle caught up with us to ask if we were Americans and, next, if we knew Ame
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laysee by: Tsung
Imagine going to work and having to introduce yourself afresh to your employer every day. Will it drive you crazy if the first question you had to answer at the door each day is “What’s your shoe size?” ?

A housekeeper, a single mother with a 10-year-old son, finds herself at the cottage of a 64-year-old Math professor who has had nine housekeepers before her. She expects a difficult client, but what she least expects is an affection that develops into a strong friendship.

The Professor suffered a
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a delightful story about a single mother, who was also a professional housekeeper and her 10 year old son Root, befriending her new employer, a retired math professor, who due to a tragic accident is left with the ability to only retain information for eighty minutes, before it vanishes from his memory. This was such a uplifting book about the strong bond of friendship and how beautifully the housekeeper, the professor and Root all truly became better versions of themselves from this ne ...more
Betsy Robinson
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometime in high school I decided I didn't like and couldn't learn math. Also, I had no interest in sports. Until reading this elegant little book about a mathematics professor, his housekeeper, and her young baseball-loving son, I never realized the beauty I have denied myself.

Because I don't even remember the math I learned and because I have never followed baseball, I missed the poetry of this book, even as I sense it's there. I know it's there because of lines like this:
"Eternal truths are
Raul Bimenyimana
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women-writers
The title of the book sums up what this story is about, a housekeeper who is employed to take care of a cottage belonging to a mathematics professor who, because of an accident, has a memory that lasts eighty minutes, and the housekeeper's son named root by the professor, because the shape of his head resembles that of a square root. While doing her work, the housekeeper and her son develop a strong friendship with the professor and are connected to each other by, you guessed it - mathematics - ...more
Caro the Helmet Lady
What a heartwarming and sad book. I went into reading it without too many expectations except that I knew most of my GR friends loved it.
While being seemingly simple and uncomplicated this story gave me so much reflection about the nature of memory, kindness and friendship. It was like a minute of sunlight on a cloudy and in general shitty day.

And it didn't even matter that all of my life I hated math with all the strength of my anthracite heart and that baseball is among those things that I wo
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Yōko Ogawa (小川 洋子) was born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya. 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 Fujiwara, a mathematician, as a ...more

Articles featuring this book

Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
105 likes · 37 comments
“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.” 108 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” 51 likes
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