Book Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa Yôko

6688335Ogawa Yôko is a well-known female author from Japan, who has written more than 20 books since 1988. Only few have been translated into English though. But they soon became well-known works.

Ogawa Yôko’s Hakase no aishita sûshiki, 博士の愛した数式 won the Yomiuri Prize for Literature in 2004 and was made into the movie: The Professor’s Beloved Equation in 2006.

The story

A brilliant mathematician who suffers from brain damage is constantly loosing his memories every 80 minutes. He helps himself by pinning paper notes onto his suit in order to remember people, events and important things in his surrounding.

With the arrival of the ninth housekeeper he gets to know a warm loving woman and her son. He calls him Root because of the shape of the boy’s head, reminding him of the square root symbol.

The professor is living in his own universe of numbers, math formulas and mathematic knowledge. Asking the housekeeper her shoe size and telephone number becomes a regular introduction ceremony as he looses his memory of her either. As he is telling her exciting stories about prime numbers, perfect numbers, dignified numbers and formulas, she is getting hooked on number theories.

Root and the professor share the same passion for baseball and soon become friends. The professor is also fathering him which leads to heart-warming scenes.

One day the mathematician wins a math contest. The housekeeper thinks this should be celebrated and the birthday of Root is chosen as the right day for a party. On that day the professor suddenly suffers from a blackout. His 80-minutes-schedule breaks down. Everything changes, as they have to separate, but they will find a new way.

The story is lovely. It is about true friendship and overcoming man’s suffering beyond prejudices. The language is light and clear. Ogawa Yôko is telling her stories with so much love for her characters and minutely observed details, which spring into your heart and make you happy. She is a very talented narrator. I hope, all her books will be translated.

小川 洋子: 博士の愛した数式, 2003. Ogawa Yôko: The Housekeeper and the Professor, 2003.

One thought on “Book Review: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa Yôko

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Revenge by Ogawa Yôko | Japan Kaleidoskop

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