Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

The Housekeeper and the Professor
This story takes place in Japan and is told from the viewpoint of a woman who is a young single mother who works as a housekeeper. She is assigned to work in the little two room cottage inhabited by a math professor who had been in a car accident. He was only able to remember events that occurred before the accident and the previous 80 minutes. Every day she had to introduce herself to him because he did not know he had already met her. He kept notes to himself pinned to his jacket including one to remind himself he could only remember the last 80 minutes. 

Eventually she brought her 10-year old son to the professor's house after school and the professor called him Root because the flat top of his head reminded him of the square root sign. Root and the professor found they both loved the same baseball team even though the professor only remembered the players from before the accident.

What was fun was how the professor shared his love of mathematics with the housekeeper and her son. He taught them about prime numbers and i, the square root of -1. This story was enjoyable for the shared joy of math as well as the challenge of working with a person who has had a brain injury.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Nazi Hunters
Adolf Eichmann was the man responsible for building the death camps and organizing the transportation of Jews and others to their death during World War II. After the war he changed his name, escaped Europe with his family, and hid in Argentina. A group of men who were survivors of the camps tracked him to a poor area outside of Buenos Aries and smuggled him out of the country to publicly stand trial in Israel. He was eventually found guilty and hung.

There were many things about this story that reminded me of the recent search for Osama bin Laden. One major difference was that Eichmann was given a trial before he was executed. It took them 15 years to find where Eichmann was hiding but this was before the Internet, email, and spy satellites. They were able to capture and extradite him without night-vision goggles and fancy helicopters. 

The story is enhanced by many pictures of the people involved and various paraphernalia like the hypodermic used to sedate Eichmann. Readers who enjoy spy thrillers would enjoy this non-fiction book.

The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

The Golden Day
The Australian author, Ursula Dubosarsky, has given us this little jewel of a book, one of those that begs to be read slowly and savored. It takes place in a school for girls during the 1970s and in some ways reminded me of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. A free-spirited teacher takes her class to a park to contemplate death. A man had been hung in Melbourne that morning and she wants the girls (who don't even know where Melbourne is) to think about things. 
It did seem a particularly wicked thing to do, the little girls agreed, on such a warm and lovely day when everything in it was so alive. Better to hang a person at night when it was already sad and dark.
They meet the handsome poet/gardener (teacher's boyfriend?) there who takes them to a cave to see some examples of indigenous art. The girls are a combination of innocent, immature, and rather silly and are completely clueless what to do when their teacher vanishes. Should they tell someone? Return to school? Tell about the gardener? It's hard to tell if they are more scared about what happened to the teacher or what might happen to themselves. I had an image of a huddled group of whimpering puppies.

Treat yourself to this delicious morsel of a book if you enjoy light mystery.