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The Housekeeper and the Professor Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ogawa (The Diving Pool) weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart and sorrow in her exquisite new novel. Narrated by the Housekeeper, the characters are known only as the Professor and Root, the Housekeepers 10-year-old son, nicknamed by the Professor because the shape of his hair and head remind the Professor of the square root symbol. A brilliant mathematician, the Professor was seriously injured in a car accident and his short-term memory only lasts for 80 minutes. He can remember his theorems and favorite baseball players, but the Housekeeper must reintroduce herself every morning, sometimes several times a day. The Professor, who adores Root, is able to connect with the child through baseball, and the Housekeeper learns how to work with him through the memory lapses until they can come together on common ground, at least for 80 minutes. In this gorgeous tale, Ogawa lifts the window shade to allow readers to observe the characters for a short while, then closes the shade. Snyder—who also translated Pool—brings a delicate and precise hand to the translation. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

First published in Japanese in 2003, this gem won the prestigious 2004 Yomiuri Prize and in 2006 was adapted for film (The Professor's Beloved Equation). The story evolves around a young housekeeper and her ten-year-old son, who have an esoteric link to a retired university professor through "amicable numbers." Ogawa (The Diving Pool) deliberately avoids any hint of romance between the two adult protagonists. Instead, she delves into the educational process between the housekeeper, a high school dropout, and the professor, a mathematical genius. With a prose style justly acclaimed as gentle yet penetrating, Ogawa gives mathematical theories from Eratosthenes to Einstein a titanic wink; under her pen, they no longer are solely a topic of conversation among academics but a tool that facilitates conflict resolution, communication between commoner and intellectual, and appreciation for the nobility and individuality of everyday objects; they also help us establish our worth in a chaotic world. This novel evokes the joy of learning, and, with its somewhat eccentric yet lovable protagonists, is a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.—Victor Or, Surrey P.L. & North Vancouver City Lib., BC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Original edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312427808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312427801
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (370 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

166 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Yoko Ogawa's "The Housekeeper and the Professor" is the sort of novel publishers release for sheer love of books. It's unlikely to be made into a blockbuster film, it admits no franchise possibility, it has no fist fights or car chases. But it's the kind of book that makes me want to read, and it will enjoy the loyalty of anyone who reads because the word is a joy in itself.

Ogawa creates a world remarkably free of names. The first-person narrator is called only "I," and she keeps house for an invalid genius she only terms "the Professor." These two form a non-traditional family with the Housekeeper's son, nicknamed Root, in "a small city on the Inland Sea." The only proper nouns are prominent mathematicians and Japanese baseball heroes.

In this regard, the novel recalls Expressionistic plays of the early Twentieth Century, peopled by characters with names like "Boss," "Stranger," and "Woman #4." Or perhaps it's more like Aesop's fables. But it clearly signals that these characters relate according to their responsibilities, not their identities.

The Housekeeper and her son build a bond with the Professor based on loyalty and his love of teaching. Their every accomplishment brings effusive praise from the old man they're actually caring for. But the trick is that the Professor has a head injury that has scrambled his limbic system. Nothing entering his head leaves a mark lasting longer than eighty minutes.

The Professor needs someone to care for, while the Housekeeper and Root long for a man in their lives to complete their troubled family. The Professor's yin finds the Housekeeper's yang.
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64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Xoe Li Lu VINE VOICE on February 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Yoko Ogawa's quiet and insightful story, The Housekeeper and The Professor surprised me in several ways. For starters, I found myself transfixed by a story that relies heavily on two things I normally can't stand: math and baseball. These two subjects serve as metaphors in Ogawa's touching story about a young housekeeper, her memory-impaired professor client, and her 10-year-old son. Far from being cheap literary devices, mathematics - and to a smaller extent, baseball - form the basis of a strong bond between the three principal characters. All three are outcasts in their own way, and each possess some level of naive purity of character, which makes their ultimate friendship all the more touching. They are an unlikely trio, however the relationship that grows between them is as close as any family bond could ever be.

I also didn't expect this little book to be so inspiring and influential. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a haunting, beautifully written tale that will cause the reader to consider what constitutes family and what life's obligations entail. Ogawa's portrayal of the professor is particularly moving. Injured in a car accident in the early 1970s, he has only 80 minutes of short-term memory and must re-learn relationships and basic information on a continual basis. A brilliant mathematician, he uses math as a primary means of communication - he is most comfortable when talking about numbers and has a gift for making the complex seem simple. While lacking in memory, he has a natural and instinctual affinity for children, and bonds instantly with the housekeeper's son. The boy's presence helps to bring the professor out of his insular world - in fact the child is the only thing that the professor seems to care about beside his beloved prime numbers.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A. Anderson on November 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The trouble with writing a review of this book is that I have just finished reading it but I am certainly not finished thinking about it. The Professor suffered a brain injury which limits his short term memory to 80 minutes. His long term memories end on the day of the auto accident. The Professor thinks nearly exclusively about number theory, the rarely practical, elegant study of numbers themselves and their relationship with one another. The Housekeeper begins as a young mother merely trying to survive and raise her son with dignity. The story, on the surface, is the improbable family that arises, the odd but intense bond that grows between the three. The Professor's emotions are childlike and his love of children is intense. That present, immediate love showers over the Housekeeper's son, called "Root" by the Professor, helps the boy to grow and teaches the Housekeeper how to better love her child. Root and the Professor love baseball even if the team they root for are from different eras, and they form a bond that the lack of common memory cannot impair. The Housekeeper becomes fascinated by the elegance of numbers and by baseball. She is a better mother and a fuller person as a result of both. The characters are changed over time--except perhaps the professor: how can you change if you have no memory?

Like most books by Asian authors I have read, the language and story is beautifully spare, clear and relies on inference. Yoko Ogawa, and her translator, leave a lot of room for readers to reach their own conclusions (how can the Professor's love for the child be personal if he cannot remember the person?) There is discussion of theorems and formulas, with the proofs shown on the page. I am not drawn to number theory but the same spare elegance of the numbers inform the story.
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