Some books stay with you. They make you pause, think and smile whenever they come into your mind. For me, this is definitely one of those books.
It is simple, gentle and character-driven, and it is also moving because it has so much insight into the human condition.
The Housekeeper is a single mother with a ten-year old son. She has a great deal of experience and she knows that she is good at her job, but when she is sent to work for The Professor, a virtuoso mathematician, she is worried.
Why? Well the Professor has been through nine housekeepers before her. And after an accident seventeen years ago the Professor’s short term memory lasts just eighty minutes.
How do you live with something like that? Well, the Professor lives a quiet, solitary life. And he pins notes to his suit. To remind him of the limitations of his memory and the details of his life.
Every morning the Professor meets The Housekeeper for the first time. Yet, a true friendship grows between them.
The Professor infects both the Housekeeper and her son, who he nicknames Root, on account of his flat haircut’s resemblance to a square root sign, with his deep love of the beauty of numbers and mathematics.
And they bond over a shared love of baseball.
I don’t think it matters though is you don’t love numbers or if you don’t love baseball. I love the former but know absolutely nothing about the latter. What is important is the love that the Housekeeper, the Professor and Root have for them and the bond between them that that shared love helps to grow.
But in time it is inevitable that change must come.
The Housekeeper and the Professor is a quite lovely history of a friendship.
Characters, themes and a gently developing plot are perfectly blended.
The writing is clear and beautiful. What need to be said is said, but there is also space to realise and appreciate what is not said. The translator has clearly done a wonderful job.
Much has been written about this book, and much more could and probably will be written. But I am moved less to write than to smile and remember happily as I think of The Housekeeper and The Professor.
Definitely a book to cherish.
Translated by Stephen Snyder