Pittsburgh Goodreaders discussion

Discussion-The Housekeeper and the Professor

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisaspeechpath) | 74 comments Mod
Since we canceled our November meeting-let's discuss it here!

message 2: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisaspeechpath) | 74 comments Mod
My most overwhelming thought about this book is:
I wish I had a teacher who taught me to enjoy math-to see the oddities and the fun. I know for sure if i had a teacher like the Professor, I might have enjoyed math more when learning it!

message 3: by Erin (new)

Erin (ersiku) | 21 comments I agree, Lisa! I've never been a math person, but the Professor made math both beautiful and understandable.

I loved the gentle, cozy feeling of the novel. True, the characters' situation isn't ordinary, yet their daily lives sort of are. They don't have grand adventures or live through terrifying historical events, they just...live. I really liked that.

I posted my thoughts on my blog last week, here:


message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul (psinderson) | 43 comments I really enjoyed this book. I was simply amazed at how easy to read this was. Sometimes I wonder how the original language version would differ from the translation, but either way, the words just rolled along easily.

It was masterful how seamlessly the math problems and equations were integrated into the story. OK, I admit that I didn’t understand most of them, but that doesn’t really matter. The point was to understand the Professor’s passion and how it overflowed to everyone around him.

This is going to be a stretch, but what do you think about the Professor’s issue being a statement on the nature of enthusiasm and passion? Perhaps we all need to reset and start over each day – we all get stuck in ruts. I know, far-fetched, but I just thought about that.

I’ve thought a lot about why no one has an actual name in the story. The Professor, the Housekeeper, Root, Sister-In-Law…no one’s individual name is mentioned. The classic interpretation is that it is done to represent everyone. Do you think that’s true in this case?


message 5: by Erin (new)

Erin (ersiku) | 21 comments Really interesting points, Paul!

I often wonder how translated novels read in their original languages. One hopes the translator tries to preserve the writing style, but it must be tough to do.

I had not considered what the Professor's memory issue might mean--I just took it at face value! But, I really like your take on it. I'd add that maybe we all need to find some guiding passion to hold onto.

I have thought about the lack of character names. I don't particularly like the classic interpretation, because it somehow takes away the cozy feeling I loved about the novel and opens it up to extended analysis. If the characters represent everyone, then the story can be parsed to death!

To me, it's more that the names aren't important. Names create clear boundaries between people, which would take away from the novel's intimacy. It's enough for us to understand each character's role; beyond that, the focus is on their relationships and the story.

message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisaspeechpath) | 74 comments Mod
I also wondered what the book was like in the original language.
I think that if the characters were named it would take away from the story. The labels (housekeeper, etc) make you remember the formal relationships (which I believe are very important in that culture) and says something profound about the relationship that developed. She is always his housekeeper but the fact that they become friends means so much more.

I wondered about the Sister-In-Law's relationship. It was kind of subtle-but were they romantic at one time-before or after her husband died? Why doesn't she spend time with him (until the end?) Does he not remember it? Does she feel guilty? Were they on the car accident together?

On another note-I was looking up info on this book and found a few interesting facts:
-It was made into a movie in 2006 (in Japan-called The Professor and his Beloved Equation-which, I read is closer to the original title before translation) and it is told from the perspective of a 20-something Root, a math theacher, who tell his class (?) how he fell in love with math
-the professor is said to be based on the life of Paul Erdos (and if you read the Wiki page you see why this is thought)
-there was a real man who in Conneticut had only a 15 minute memory-who was the subject of research studies Henry Gustov Molaison

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisaspeechpath) | 74 comments Mod
Did anyone try to solve the math problems? I tried the one about finding another way to use all the numbers and get 55 (pages 47-57).
Oh-and I saw knew they were in the car crash together-I think I meant was there a reason in that fact that would explain the sister-in-laws behavior.

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul (psinderson) | 43 comments I was also intrigued by the Professor's relationship with the Sister-in-Law. It was clearly a long term love affair that couldn't be "public". But I agree - why does she treat him so coldly now?

I haven't tried to solve any of the math problems. I might go into a fit remembering school!

message 9: by Frances (new)

Frances Pawley (Frances60) | 4 comments One book I read that was translated 'The House of the Spirits' had the colour of the girl's hair and eyes wrongly written the whole way through: Golden eyes and Green Hair!

message 10: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 27 comments Late to the party, but I loved this book. Thanks to whoever suggested it; it was definately not something I would have picked up on my own.

I think it may have taken away from the story if the characters had been given names. Besides reinforcing their roles, like someone else said, it adds to the simplicity of the writing and the story. Also, as written from the housekeeper's perspective, she called him "Professor". I think it is more interesting that she comes to call her son "Root", the Professor's nickname.

message 11: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 27 comments I might have liked to know more about the Professor's relationship with his sister-in-law, but again, from the housekeeper's perspective, she looked up the article about the accident, but didn't seem to pursue the matter further, especially after her dismissal and subsequent re-hiring. I liked the ending, with both the Professor and his sister-in-law, also called the widow, both in the assisted living home together.

message 12: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 27 comments I also liked the memory issue. Though the Professor's disability is due to an accident, I am dealing with memory issues with my elderly mother. She is often anxious, like the professor, too. I liked the housekeeper's acceptance of the memory limitation, though, apparently it had given others problems.

message 13: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisaspeechpath) | 74 comments Mod
I have been thinking of this book again--I wonder if the sister-in-law didn't think anyone could care for the Professor again (including herself) once his memory stopped. He was forever locked in the past-and she moved on and couldn't deal with him not moving in with her.
I was thinking that once she saw that the Housekeeper could care for him-even in his impaired state-she realized she could, too (Hence her presence in the nursing home-when she was absent when he lived in her back yard)

message 14: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 27 comments I wonder why the sister-in-law seemed to ostracize the professor, in his run-down, overgrown cottage. And why was she sneaking around, the night that the housekeeper stayed the night. Did the sister-in-law "visit" the professor in the evenings? I like your point, Lisa, that the housekeeper kind of showed the sister-in-law her way back to the professor.

message 15: by Paul (new)

Paul (psinderson) | 43 comments The sister-in-law's strange behavior towards the Professor was, to me, the most intriguing aspect of this book. Perhaps you are right...she just didn't know how to care for him.

message 16: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisaspeechpath) | 74 comments Mod
I was going to bring this up when we met to discuss this book-but did you know there are different ways to multiply (other than the standard):

Russian Peasant Math
Lattice Math

You will have to google them-but one of my friends was in gifted match and he learned to multiply these ways-it was fascinating

message 17: by Paul (new)

Paul (psinderson) | 43 comments Lisa wrote: "I was going to bring this up when we met to discuss this book-but did you know there are different ways to multiply (other than the standard):

Russian Peasant Math
Lattice Math


What the....? That's crazy...but it works! I wish I was more into math.

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