Housekeeper and the Professor (Ogawa)

Book Reviews 
This is one of those books written in such lucid, unpretentious language that reading it is like looking into a deep pool of clear water. But even in the clearest waters can lurk currents you don't see until you are in them. Dive into Yoko Ogawa's world (she is the author of more than 20 works of fiction and nonfiction) and you find yourself tugged by forces more felt than seen.
Dennis Overbye - New York Times


We don't pay much attention to literary news from Japan unless it’s bizarre: businessmen on crowded subways reading pornographic manga, teenage girls buying cell-phone romance novels by the millions. But here’s an example of Japanese reading habits that’s just as odd, if less sexy: Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor has sold more than 2.5 million copies in the small island nation. Oprah would have to recommend a book about Harry Potter’s dying Labrador to move that many copies in the United States.... The Housekeeper and the Professor is strangely charming, flecked with enough wit and mystery to keep us engaged throughout. This is Ogawa’s first novel to be translated into English, and Stephen Snyder has done an exceptionally elegant job.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


This sweetly melancholy novel adheres to the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in what is off-center, imperfect.... In treating one another with such warm concern and respect, the characters implicitly tell us something about the unforgiving society on the other side of the Professor's cottage door.  The Housekeeper and the Professor is a wisp of a book, but an affecting one.
Amanda Heller - Boston Globe


Gorgeous, cinematic...The Housekeeper and the Professor is a perfectly sustained novel...like a note prolonged, a fermata, a pause enabling us to peer intently into the lives of its characters.... This novel has all the charm and restraint of any by Ishiguro or Kenzaburo Oe and the whimsy of Murakami. The three lives connect like the vertices of a triangle.
Susan Salter Reynolds - Los Angeles Times


Lovely.... Ogawa's plot twists, her narrative pacing, her use of numbers to give meaning and mystery to life are as elegant in their way as the math principles the professor cites.... Ogawa's short novel is itself an equation concerning the intricate and intimate way we connect with others—and the lace of memory they sometimes leave us.
Anthony Bukoski - Minneapolis Star Tribune


(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.
Publishers Weekly


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 Lib., BC
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