Wednesday, the 22nd of December, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today’s pick is The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, first published in 2003, and in its English translation in 2009 (by Stephen Snyder). Born in Okayama, Yoko Ogawa is the author of over 20 works of fiction and non-fiction, her first work having been published in 1988. She is said to have the ability ‘to give expression to the most subtle workings of human psychology in prose that is gentle yet penetrating‘ (source).

The Housekeeper and the Professor introduces us to a brilliant professor of maths and a sensitive and astute young housekeeper who works for him. While the professor’s mind is alive with elegant equations, having suffered an accident, he is unable to hold memories for long and must be reintroduced to his housekeeper every day. A beautiful relationship develops between the professor, the housekeeper and her ten-year-old son as the professor devices clever maths riddles based on things from the housekeeper’s shoe size to birthdays. This builds between the three ‘an affection more mysterious than imaginary numbers and a bond deeper than memory’!

Sounds fascinating doesn’t it? The idea of the bond that develops between these three unlikely characters and that too, around maths is something that really piqued my interest since it involves both the wonderful world of numbers and the warmth of human friendships.

This book was recommended to me years ago by a friend who shares similar reading interests, but I only got a copy earlier this year. Since then, time hasn’t really been on my side and I haven’t managed to be able to pick this up. But with different Japanese literature events/memes coming up early next year, I think I’ll have the perfect opportunity to do so!

Have you read this one or any other of Yoko Ogawa’s books? How did you like them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Lisa’s pick this week is The Angel of the Crows (2020) by Katherine Addison, a Sherlock story but in an alternate London with with vampires and angels, and even Jack the Ripper!

Cover image and book description from Goodreads, and the blurb behind my copy (Vintage Books, 2010, pp. 180).


11 thoughts on “Shelf Control #165: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

  1. I’ve considered this one whenever it gets mentioned but I’m not sure how I’d get on with the maths aspect – never did understand it! If you get to it at some point, perhaps your review will help me make up my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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