The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

Let’s see, a housekeeper who works for a professor who can only remember what’s happened in the last 80 minutes. He’s a very brilliant man — he knows lots about mathematics and rules and formulas and everything that he remembered when he was a young man but now he’s in his 60s, he had a car accident and can’t remember anything after the car accident.

The housekeeper develops a liking for the professor. He becomes a kind of father figure to her and a grandfather to her young son. It’s a very touching story and it’s very interesting how she could have a relationship with somebody even though he can’t remember who she is without writing a note and pinning it to his jacket.

To me, the message of the novel is that memory isn’t the most important thing in life. How we behave and the actions that we take towards each other every single day are more important than our past, or our memories of the past. But also, the book shows how we humans need each other, and how we can help each other, even even when we’re broken. This was the best book I’ve read by Ogawa.

* * *

No. 3 of 100 books I intend to read and review in 2021.

Patrick Sherriff is an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at his conversation school in Abiko, Japan, with his wife, he writes and illustrates textbooks for non-native speakers of English, releases Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, essays and a monthly newsletter  highlighting good fiction published in English about Japan. Saku’s Random Book Club is his latest project to spend more time with books.