Not recommended

The Housekeeper and the Professor




He is a brilliant maths Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper--with a ten-year-old son--who is hired to care for the Professor. 

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful friendship blossoms between them.


This book was only around 180 pages, and yet it took me over a month to complete as it felt very dry and monotonous. I understand that I already have a deep existing hate for mathematics while being impartial towards baseball- and having said this, I can also acknowledge that this was a good book. However, because of these existing barriers, I was not able to enjoy the book to its fullest extent.


The Housekeeper and the Professor focuses on memories, friendship, and mathematics. It is a quiet read, that is most notable for its simplicity. It's a slice-of-life fiction that is heavily rooted in Mathematics. It is narrated by the Housekeeper as she recounts her time caring for the Professor alongside her son Root. The dynamic of the three generations carried this story. You can tell how much they care for each other, and how their relationship continues to grow despite the Professor having no memory of it.


Something I’ve realized over time is that translated fiction, especially Japanese media, is more focused on the feelings and emotions it is trying to ignite within the consumer, rather than focus on a plot. Examples of this would be Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle or Lonely Castle In the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura.


I liked the Professor and how mathematics is almost like a language to him, using it as a means to communicate with the world around him. He is insightful, and kind while also being naive and stubborn at times. He reminds me a lot of my grandmother whom I loved endlessly, so I was able to connect with the Professor.


However, it was still an aggressively average book to me as I could not relate deeply to any of the characters and their stories. While I liked the Professor, we are also not able to fully understand him as a character for two reasons. One, obviously because of his memory, both us, the readers, and himself, have no idea about his past. He has an 80-minute memory that is unable to share further depth with a character. I don’t blame the story for this though, as it is the premise for the story. Secondly, because we are reading this story from the perspective of the Housekeeper, we, like the Housekeeper, only get small tidbits of his life.

The Housekeeper is very passive and quiet. She almost seems to have hardly a spine sometimes and feels robotic at times. 

Of course, this is just my own opinion but it created a disconnect- I found her perspective quite bland at times. Like good god I was willing to get a paper cut to FEEL something. But I also do enjoy her increasing interest in Mathematics, and how she is starting to use it in her daily life as well.


I am aware this is a super unpopular opinion, but maybe by my second or third reading, I’ll be able to fully immerse myself and enjoy the book for what it is. If you like mathematics, this book is for you. However, since I didn't, it was quite hard to enjoy. I'm not sure if I would strongly recommend it to anyone unless you are interested in maths and memory.

Book Details

Not really recommended
Published: 03 February 2009
Page Count: 180 pages

Not recommended

Content Warning Summary

  • Dementia
  • Chronic Illness