The Housekeeper and the Professor

Monday, April 12, 2010

Title: The Housekeeper and the Professor
Author: Yoko Ogawa
Pages: 180
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Picador (Macmillan)
Release Date: February 3, 2009

The Housekeeper and the Professor
is beautifully written and a short read at 180 pages. The characters are so endearing I can't imagine them not growing and finding a place in anyone's heart. This is also a book about numbers and how harmonious they can be; I would consider this the number version of what Ella Minnow Pea did for language and the alphabet. Those who love numbers will find themselves even more engrossed in this book, but those who don't won't find the numbers take from the story.

None of the characters are given actual names, other than the housekeeper's son, whom the professor names Root because of the shape of the top of his head. The lack of names wasn't something that drew away from the story or that I even noticed, although I worried it would. In fact, I think this may have made the story even better because it changed the focus for me; the characters were just as real, though. The professor is an elderly man who has only a short term memory of 80 minutes. At the beginning of every 80 minutes, he believes he's still back in the late 70's when he lost his memory initially. Because of this, he clips post it notes all over his daily suits so he can remind himself of his situation.

Over the years, 9 different housekeepers have been through the home and all have to leave for one reason or another. Then "the housekeeper" starts to work there and is able to acclimate herself to the situation and meet the professor's needs for socialization, while still completing all her work. She then starts bringing Root to work with her. Root and the professor then begin a loving relationship, reminiscent of many loving grandfather/grandson relationships. The professor dotes on Root and they share a love for baseball.

While we don't learn much about the professor's past, or even that of the housekeeper's, for that matter, this story is about how the three characters love each other and are able to care for each other despite all their challenges. They build a family of their own during the day when the Housekeeper and Root are at the home. The juxtaposition of numbers and the harmony they create added an intellectually stimulating dimension to this novel. But the main factor this novel boasts is the beautiful writing and the charming characters. It's short, but Ogawa does an excellent job focusing on the parts of the story that are important to tell so in that short amount of time you really feel like you know the characters and have lived with them through this stage in their life. This was such a beautiful book. It will go on my keeper shelf to read again and again!


Amanda said...

This was one of my favorite books of last year! I loved it so much. Glad you enjoyed it too!

Juju at Tales of said...

Beautiful review Jenny!

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

This is a new one for me. Great review!

Jennifer (Crazy-for-Books) said...

I ALMOST picked this one up to read for the readathon, but I ended up reading PUSH instead. I'm sure I'll get to this one really soon since it is so short! I've heard amazing things about it!

Miel Abeille said...

This sounds like a perfect book to read on a warm spring afternoon. I'm not sure that I would have given the book a second look if it weren't for your review. Thanks Jenny!

Zibilee said...

I read this book last year and was amazed by it. It was just such a beautiful story and so filled with emotion. I am glad you liked it as well. I may have to read this one again soon. It's a short read, but a good one. Excellent review!

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

This sounds wonderful -- I love terrific character-driven novels!

Jenny said...

Amanda -- I really did! Have you read any of her other books?

Juju -- thanks!

Michelle -- Thanks! I've heard lots of great things about it.

Jennifer -- haha, yeah they're almost the same size. I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on Push though!

Melissa -- it really is!

Zibilee -- especially b/c it's so short I feel like I could easily read it again, haha

Stephanie -- this is a good one! said...

I heard so many good things about it and I will check it out now, with your review. Thanks!

Rahul said...

Yeah That was really an awesome one.... I really like that book...

Housekeeper London

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