The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
He is a brilliant maths professor with a peculiar problem – ever since a traumatic head injury seventeen years ago, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.
She is a sensitive but astute young housekeeper who is entrusted to take care of him.
Each morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are reintroduced to one another, a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms between them. The Professor may not remember what he had for breakfast, but his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. He devises clever maths riddles – based on her shoe size or her birthday – and the numbers reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her ten-year-old son. With each new equation, the three lost souls forge an affection more mysterious than imaginary numbers, and a bond that runs deeper than memory.
I saw someone talking about this book on Twitter saying that the hours had gone by while reading it. And so I bought it (for those wondering if you talking about books on Twitter actually influences others, yes, it does).
Books like this one used ot be my bread and butter and I would indulge in them, but then I stopped reading them. I think I had a disenchantment with Kazuo Ishiguro that was a little too much.
Regardless, back to this book here. I really enjoyed it. It was a delight to read. Since I’ve read books like this one, I knew that setting expectations of grandeur wasn’t going to match it and instead it would be a book that stays with you and just ponders alongside.
The book is about ahousekeeper who gets sent to work at the home of a mathematics professor that had an accident and now can only remember up to 80 minutes. This makes other housekeepers leave, but our narrator doesn’t and she finds the professor fascinating, as he talks numbers and numbers to her.
There is no romance, there is only the exploration of humanity, of how we can establish friendships even through hardships and how we can connect with other human beings. I just genuinely felt that the book was gently taking you through a journey of finding out how to help others, how to accept better, while giving you lots of mathematical lessons (I was super happy about this bit because they never felt annoying or unnatural, instead they were perfectly part of the story, not to boast or distract or teach, just to talk for the professor).
If you want a soft book that is gentle and is about a housekeepr working for a professor who can only remember so long and how they connect despite this, this is the book to read.