In The Housekeeper and the Professor, a housekeeper goes to work for a math professor who only has eighty minutes of short term memory. As a result of a car accident in 1975, he can remember everything that happened before it, but now after eighty minutes, his memory is wiped clean and he starts again. Every morning, it's like the housekeeper and the professor have never met. To keep track of all of the things he needs to remember, he creates little notes to himself which he keeps clipped to his suit, including a hand-drawn portrait of the housekeeper and her son, Root. Although he no longer teaches, mathematics remains his life-long passion; math and baseball.
I adored this wonderfully book. It's certainly one of my favourites this year and probably one of the best books I've ever read. To say it's beautifully written, is an understatement. The story enveloped me from the beginning and led me on an emotional roller coaster to the very end. The story was at times heart-breaking, yet it remained hopeful and heart-warming. The professor spends a lot of time explaining mathematics to the housekeeper and her son. Usually I'd find math a little dull, but not the way the professor explains it. His passion is contagious and not only rubs off on the housekeeper and Root, but also me.
The characters were memorable, quite ironic considering the subject matter. All of the characters were fantastic; I'd be hard pressed to name a favourite. Each of them had qualities to admire: the professor had his passion, the housekeeper had her compassion and perseverance. Root, so named by the professor because of his flat head which resembled the symbol for square root, had his maturity despite his age.
Yoko Ogawa shows us how beautiful mathematics can be; how precious our memories are; how relationships can be forges despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles and how baseball can be an obsession. I was especially surprised and pleased to see that the game of baseball did not revolve around the American teams. Who knew that was possible? ;)
Highly recommended. I'll definitely be looking for more of Ogawa's work.
For more information about this book, please visit the Macmillan/Picador website.