The Housekeeper + The Professor is another of my First Tuesday Book Club finds. It has been on my TBR list for ages and although I am glad I read it, I wasn't overly excited by this novel. In fact, I am slightly disappointed.
Genre: Fiction, Japanese
Each morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are reintroduced to one another, a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms between them. The Professor may not remember what he had for breakfast, but his mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. He devises clever maths riddles - based on her shoe size or her birthday- and the numbers reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her ten-year-old son. With each new equation, the three lost souls forge an affection more mysterious than imaginary numbers, and a bond that runs deeper than memory.
The premise for this novel was interesting, as was the developing relationship between the Housekeeper, the Professor and her son, Root (nicknamed so by the Professor who upon meeting him each day, declares that his flat head reminds him of the square root sign). Unfortunately I found this novel and it's characters hard to connect with.
I blame the math. I do not like math. I am not a fan of numbers. Give me living, breathing words any day. To me, numbers are flat. Considering that the Professor was a mathematician, this book is full of equations. Ogawa uses plenty of math terminology to create the world of the Professor and to give the reader some insight into his mind. I found this made the book terribly slow.
The Housekeeper and her son find the Professor's love of numbers intriguing and his number games beautiful. They are quickly drawn into his world and are keen to solve his equations. I get the feeling Ogawa wanted the reader to also be drawn into this world and feel just as passionate about numbers are the characters were. Not me. Sorry. I really don't enjoy math.
I also had a problem with the baseball. I am not a sporty person. I do not follow any sort of sport, let alone baseball which isn't widely played in Australia (I don't even think it is played professionally here, correct me if I am wrong). So all the long-winded descriptions of games, Japanese players batting averages and their careers just didn't interest me.
So there you have it. I enjoyed the growing relationship between the three main characters and I felt this was a really tender, sad story that did a good job of showing how memory loss can affect a persons life, but all the math and baseball made it too difficult for me to read enthusiastically.
I feel like I have missed something really important because of this.. like my eyes were closed to something profound.. but I am not going to read it again to find out.
If you enjoy math, baseball and stories about people then you may really love this book. It just wasn't for me.