博士の愛した数式
by 小川 洋子
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18 + 461 in other languages
SUN50SUN50 wrote a review
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The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Told from the housekeeper’s perspective, this novel starts with the introduction of a brilliant math professor to his new housekeeper. Due to an accident, the professor’s memories reset every eighty minutes. When we meet him, he is covered in sticky notes that remind him of who people are and where he has placed things. He has been through a number of other housekeepers already and is considered difficult. The housekeeper, a single mother, has a ten-year-old son who the professor names Root, as the hair on the top of his head reminds the professor of a square root symbol. Except for the nickname Root, these characters remain nameless. The novel focuses on the interactions between these three characters.
Things of great interest---the nature and circumstance surrounding the professor's injury; its emotional and psychological import; the nature and meaning of his relationship with "the widow" (his sister-in-law); the human (=emotional) costs of, in the narrator's case, being a single mother in Japan---these are never really developed.
In my opinion the pace was too slow, the relationships were too sweet and even the tragic circumstances surrounding the characters could not mitigate that.
The baseball detail was boring for me because I don't follow baseball in general and particularly not Japanese baseball.
Even though the novel was set in modern day Japan, I did not get a sense of the culture or place. The novel could have been set in Middle-America and not lost or gained anything. I think the author missed quite a few opportunities to create deeper or richer scenes and interplays between the characters as the writing was extremely simple; it left those scenes and communications too flat like she walked away from them too early. I don't think this book was particularly interesting, captivating or emotional. I guess I would say it is a "nice" book to read, it only took a few hours. Overall I'd say it was boring and I didn't gain anything from it. When I read a good book, I find myself constantly thinking about it after. I like to become immersed in a book; develop an attachment with the characters and the story. If not, then I at least like to learn something new. This book did neither for me. I would not recommend it unless you would like to read a quick book that's easy to pick up and put down.
StefanoStefano wrote a review
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JaahbabaJaahbaba wrote a review
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numbers and affection
The Professor is a man who has been suffering from memory loss after a car accident. His short memory last 84 minutes, not one second more; whereas, he has a very clear memory of his past before the accident, when he was a Math professor, deeply in love with numbers, in particular prime numbers.
The Housekeeper, as you can guess, is the woman who takes care of him. Well, maybe it is better to say, the last (in chronological order) woman who tries to take care of him. 'Cause, can you imagine to take care of a person that in less than 2 hours doesn't remember who you are and what you are doing in his house?
In this book there are no names, as it is not necessary to spend time on talking about particulars that would be forgotten in 84 mins. Therefore, also the little son of the housekeeper will just have a nickname in the all story: Root, as the Math symbol √
The relationship among these 3 characters is of course made of numbers, and of the beauty that can be hidden behind a date of birth, or a shoes size. But, despite all, there is a true bond among them that is created during the reading. It is a very sweet book, silent, emotional.
I highly recommend it!


"The Professor never really seemed to care whether we figured out the right answer to a problem. He preferred our wild, desperate guesses to silence, and he was even more delighted when those guesses led to new problems that took us beyond the original one. He had a special feeling for what he called the "correct miscalculation," for he believed that mistakes were often as revealing as the right answers."
柏強柏強 wrote a review
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