This is a truly charming novel. Set in Japan, it tells the story of a Housekeeper who works for an elderly maths professor. The professor’s memory has been damaged by an accident so he can only create short-term memories for 80 minutes at a time.
There is an over-arching melancholy that shrouds this book. This cover however is more like a snug blanket rather than a claustrophobic smog. The emotional restraint between the housekeeper and the professor is as warm as it is distant.
But the most endearing relationship in the novel is that of the housekeeper’s son, Root, and the professor. The professor and Root warm to each other in the same way a grandparent and grandchild have a special bond. It’s an understanding that has to be at least two generations apart. The professor helps Root with his maths homework and in turn, Root provides the professor with love and companionship.
I realised when I read this book that I read a lot of fiction told from a Western perspective. This novel was interesting to me as it really enlightened me as to the nuances of different cultures that manifest themselves in relationships. I don’t think this particular housekeeper and professor would have formed that same bond in an English household for example.
If you are looking for a very sweet novel that yields a quiet restraint, The Housekeeper and the Professor is for you.