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The Housekeeper and the Professor
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Archive: Other Books > The Housekeeper and the Professor / Yoko Ogawa - 5***** and a ❤

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5641 comments The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
5***** and a ❤

Audiobook performed by Cassandra Campbell.

A housekeeper is sent by her agency to the home of a problematic client. A blue star is stamped on the client’s card each time a housekeeper has to be replaced, and the Professor’s card already has nine stars. But she prides herself on her professionalism. The Professor lives in a small cottage next to a larger mansion occupied by his brother’s widow. A few years before he suffered a brain injury in an automobile accident and as a result his memory is limited to 80 minutes. His suit coat is covered in small notes to help him remember things he would otherwise forget. Each morning he asks the Housekeeper for her shoe size, her birth date and the age of her son, Root. Yet, despite having to introduce themselves anew each morning, they develop a unique friendship.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was a beautifully elegant gem of a novel. The slow way in which the Housekeeper, Root and the Professor get to know one another is framed by his lessons on the poetry of mathematics. And it IS poetic the way he explains it. His love of the subject and the elegance of perfect equations is evident, as is his love of teaching. As limited as his memory is, the Professor’s ability to find the beauty in numbers (and to share that sense of awe with his companions) seems without limit.

I liked how Ogawa used the Professor’s and Root’s love of baseball to frame their growing friendship. And I liked the sensitivity Root showed when he refrained from correcting the Professor’s assumption that the great Enatsu was still playing (rather than having actually retired more than a dozen years previously). Root taught the Professor to enjoy the game for the camaraderie and joy of watching the team and cheering them on, while the Professor taught Root the wonder of statistics and the beauty of the numbers involved. ”His joy had little to do with the difficulty of the problem. Simple or hard, the pleasure was in sharing it with us.”

I could not help but remember my father and his great love for and natural ability with math. He taught me so many little tricks when I was a child and made solving problems fun. I’m sure that is partly why I had such a positive emotional response to this book.

Cassandra Campbell does a fine job narrating the audio book. She has a gentle quality that is perfectly suited to this book. There is a scene where the Professor praises the way in which the boy has read aloud a homework problem: “You make a boring problem sound just like a poem.” That is a perfect description for Campbell’s performance; even when she is reading equations, she makes them sound like poetry.


UPDATE 12June16 - I re-read this in preparation for my F2F book club discussion. This time I read the text and find the writing just as poetically beautiful as when I listened to the audio.


message 2: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1545 comments It is a wonderful book. I am forever grateful for Anita for bringing my attention to the book. How wonderful that it could remind you of your father in such a nice way


Sara (mootastic1) | 770 comments I love that it stands up to a second reading. It is so beautiful. Definitely one of the best books I read in 2014.


Anita Pomerantz | 6277 comments Jen wrote: "It is a wonderful book. I am forever grateful for Anita for bringing my attention to the book. How wonderful that it could remind you of your father in such a nice way"

Awww, thanks Jen! I wish I could give credit to the person here who recommended it to me (was it you, Sara? Or maybe Nicole D?). . .but honestly, I can read 100 five star reviews of it and never get tired of hearing about it. That's how much this book touched my heart. I felt like the author wrote it FOR me.


Sara (mootastic1) | 770 comments Anita wrote: "Jen wrote: "It is a wonderful book. I am forever grateful for Anita for bringing my attention to the book. How wonderful that it could remind you of your father in such a nice way"

Awww, thanks Je..."


I read it based on someone's recommendation at PBT, and then recommended it to you Anita.


Anita Pomerantz | 6277 comments and that's why I love PBT so much!! Thank you, Sara!!! This book is one I will always treasure.


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5641 comments Sara wrote: "I read it based on someone's recommendation at PBT, and then recommended it to you Anita. ..."

And I think that was me ... the first time I read it.


annapi | 4916 comments I feel the same way - I read this based on all the wonderful reviews and recommendations and gave it 4.5 stars, rounding up.


Karin | 6926 comments I also like this book, and am fairly sure I learned about it from pbt (not 100 percent sure since it might have been around the time I was ending my old homeschool reading group where I learned about some good books as well). But I think it was here.


Anita Pomerantz | 6277 comments I owe you and Sara then, BC!


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