I am well aware that I am very, very late to the ‘The Housekeeper and the Professor’ party. It’s a book that pretty much half of the blogosphere has read and loved. It’s interesting with books like these; if I see too many reviews (and I mean more than six) of one book my brain goes one of three ways. I either want to read them instantly, start to feel nonchalant about them, or go off the idea of reading them for a good six months or so. I am sure I am not the only one in that? Let me know if you ever get any of those thoughts? Anyway back to the book…
‘The Housekeeper and the Professor’ is really a tale of two lonely people coming together and it changing their lives forever. The unnamed housekeeper of the title has come into her job after becoming a single mother disowned by her family as a disgrace. Her latest job happens to be for the professor of the title (sorry they don’t have names, so if it starts to sound a little samey in my bookish thoughts be assured it never is in the book) when she is hired by his rather severe sister in law. The professor was once a rather renowned mathematician though after a tragic accident has a memory that lasts no longer than 80 minutes yet he remains obsessed by numbers always asking what peoples shoes sizes are, their date of birth etc and analyzing what lies behind that number and judges people accordingly.
Through the housekeepers son, who the professor renames Root, these two people strike up an unlikely but delightful friendship (I did keep worrying some big romance was coming, but Ogawa is much too clever for that) and it’s this that you follow through the rest of the book. Though there is never really a huge plot snippets pop in and secrets are revealed which make you read on along with the characters and Ogawa’s prose. It’s a subtle book which never beats you over the head with how clever and thought provoking it is or how much it has to say.
I think that the professor maybe one of my favourite characters that I have had the fortune to read this year, and certainly one of the most unusual. In a scene where the professor awakes from a fever and goes through the notes attached to his suit (which help him become acquainted with his life at that point) and reads ‘you have a memory of 80 minutes’ almost broke my heart as Ogawa shows the professors breaking, I couldn’t help but imagine how that would feel every single day for the rest of your life.
If you have happened to flick through the book you will see there are quite a few maths equations, do not let that put you off. I will admit I wasn’t sure I was going to be a fan as though I was good at maths at school I never really enjoyed it (which has always baffled my mother). There are some equations but despite looking really complex the book uses them to move the characters and occasionally the plot forward in a very original way. Who knew a book with equations could be such an emotional journey. Oh and yes I did spot there are exactly eleven chapters which seems apt, the perfect prime number of parts of a rather perfect book. 10/10
I can’t suggest a book that I think is quite like this, but if anyone else knows of any do let me know. For any of those of you who haven’t had the joy of this book pop here for an international giveaway. Now who has read the book, what did you think? And was do you think when lots of the same books appear on blogs, just out of interest?