The Housekeeper and the Professor is a lovely story set in Japan about a brilliant mathematician suffering from brain damage, his housekeeper, and her son. Along the way, it’s also about how friendships develop, how beautiful and elegant math is, the nature of memory, and baseball.
It sounds incongruous, but it really works. The story is sweet without being treacly, and thoughtful without being heavy. The characters, who remain unnamed except for their titles (Professor, Housekeeper, Root–the nickname the professor gives the housekeeper’s son due to the child’s haircut resembling a square root symbol), quickly develop as they interact with one another, and their areas of brokenness, while never solved, seem alleviated by their deepening friendships and love for each other.
The style of this book really struck me. It reminds me of Japanese art or calligraphy–spare but elegant–with no wasted words or sense of filling up space. Although I wouldn’t say the book gives a great sense of Japanese culture, it does fit and evoke the sense and mindsets of the country. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a beautifully written story and I’d recommend it.
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