The story is based on an intriguing premise - a man who can only remember the previous 80 minutes due to a brain injury. Every morning the professor meets his housekeeper again for the first time. The housekeeper develops a relationship with the professor, growing fond of him. But can he really develop a relationship with anyone if they are always new to him?
The professor shares his love for math with the housekeeper and her son. Although not a math lover myself, I was drawn in by his love for numbers. He saw beauty in math and its relationship to the world. The novel was set in Japan, but I often forget that. The content really seemed universal. The author chose not to name any of the characters, so they could have been your neighbors.
The professor retains memory from before his accident and is shocked when faced with realities of modern life, preferring to stay at home. The housekeeper makes efforts to take him out into the world, even carefully orchestrating his first trip to a major league baseball game. The professor had always loved baseball for its many statistics and finally gets to experience the game in real life.
The professor shows his capacity for caring and tenderness with the housekeeper's 10-year-old son, exhibiting more patience and concern than the housekeeper had seen before.
It was an easy read and I'd recommend it for adults or young adults. I look forward to seeing if the author has other works that have been translated into English.
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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 blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor's mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper's shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.
The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.
Yoko Ogawa's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award.