Book Thoughts: The Housekeeper and the Professor

The housekeeper

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 authors.

In the span of one month I’ve read every one of her English translations that I’ve been able to get my hands on, and I’m devastated that only three exist. I need more of this incredible author in my life. My French is rusty, but I’m willing to dust it off so I can read more. Forget that, I’d learn Japanese just to read the original. She is that worth it.

I have to pick myself up of the floor to right this review. It did not make me cry. Oh No. It made me sob right into the arms of my 92 year old granny. I loved this one so much, that I will probably butcher this review, so if there is anything that you need to take away from this book it’s this. It is Beautiful.

The novel follows the life of the housekeeper’s time working for the professor. None of the characters are given names aside from Root the housekeeper’s son, but even so it’s a nickname. They are simply the housekeeper, the Professor etc. The housekeeper is sent to her new assignment which turns out to be working for an aging former math professor. At first nothing is odd, just another person to look after, and another house to clean. However, the oddity of the professor is that his memory only last eighty minutes, so everyday she shows up to work he meets her for the first time.

“Soon after I began working for the Professor, I realized that he talked about numbers whenever he was unsure of what to say or do. Numbers were also his way of reaching out to the world. They were safe, a source of comfort.”

The professor breaths math. It’s his passion, his language, the only thing that helps him make sense of the world, and of the people he meets but forgets everyday.The Housekeeper is patient and intrigued by the professor’s mathematical abilities, and although they both come from different worlds, they grow to learn a lot from each other. Not long after she starts her job, the professor tells her to bring her ten year old son Root, and the three form a beautiful friendship.

This story makes me think of purity. The purity of love and friendship. The ending is bittersweet, but perfect. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

This is not only one of my favorite books of this year, but one of my favorites of all time. A truly lovely story, and a true work of beauty. This story will stay with me till I’m an old lady, and my memory starts to fade.


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