Diving Pool

Ogawa, Yoko. The Diving Pool: Three Novellas. New York: Picador, 2008.

Reason read: Japan celebrates a national Cultural Day on November 3rd.

Comprised of three novellas:

  • The Diving Pool
  • The Pregnancy Diary
  • The Dormitory

Here is what you need to know before you dive into Ogawa’s work. At the height of tension the story ends. Period. If you don’t care for cliffhangers you should make up your own endings or just don’t read Diving Pool at all. It’s that simple. Ogawa’s writing is like a subtle psycho-killer movie. Instead of the monster being front and center, there is absolutely nothing tangible to confront. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up, not because a blood-dripping ghoul is staring you down, but because there is nothing to see. The darkness is a wisp of toxic smoke, a hint of danger darting in the corners of your periphery. In Ogawa’s stories it is what isn’t being said that is far scarier than the certainty. In the title story Jun admits he is aware of the protagonist’s cruelty. Then what? You don’t know what happens next. In “The Pregnancy Diary” a sister gives birth to a child who may, or may not, have a birth defect. In the last story, “The Dormitory” a cousin hasn’t been seen for days and the manager of his dormitory always has an excuse for his absence. After you have read these stories you are left without resolution and without resolution your imagination questions the reality.

Favorite lines, “Perhaps it’s because he’s falling through time, to a place there words can never reach,” “When we grow up, we find ways ti hide our anxieties, our loneliness, our fear and sorrow,” and “The baby haunted the shadows that fell between us.” Can’t you just feel the ominous chill between the lines?

Author fact: Ogawa also wrote Hotel Iris (on my Challenge list) as well as The Housekeeper and the Professor (finished).

Nancy said: Pearl had a couple of mistakes on this title. She called it “Divining Pool” (both in the chapter and the index), and she referred to Yoko Ogawa as a male.
About The Diving Pool she said it was like The Housekeeper and the Professor, “delicate and retrained” (Book Lust To Go p 117).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Japanese Journeys” (p 116).


Housekeeper and the Professor

Ogawa, Yoko. The Housekeeper and the Professor. Translated by Stephen Snyder. New York: Picador, 2009.

Told from the point of view of the unnamed housekeeper, The Housekeeper and the Professor is a beautiful yet complex tale about an unlikely relationship. She is a single mother to a ten year old boy, cleaning the house of a once-brilliant professor. He is a mathematician who suffered a traumatic head injury that has left him with a memory that lasts only 80 minutes at a time. It’s an unusual predicament. The housekeeper must reintroduce herself to the professor every day she comes to cook and clean for the man. If she is at his tiny bungalow more than 80 minutes she must reintroduce herself in the same day. To try to compensate for his lack of memory, the professor has pinned notes about his life to help him cope. Included in his notes are details about the housekeeper and her son who the professor calls, “Root.” Despite the obvious obstacles the professor and the housekeeper develop a beautiful friendship. At the “root” of their relationship is ten year old Root, baseball, and the undying love for a left-handed pitcher.

Line that bothered me to no end, “He traced the symbol in the thick layer of dust on his desk” (p 1). This bothered me because the title of the book is The Housekeeper and the Professor. The housekeeper is speaking about the professor’s desk. Hello? Shouldn’t the desk be rid of dust if she is the housekeeper or does the definition of housekeeping differ in Japan?

As an aside, it was interesting to read two different books that have a left-handed pitcher in the plot.

Reason read: Emperor Akihot was born in the month of December.

Author fact: Ogawa also wrote The Diving Pool which is not on my list to read but seems like the better book because the back of The Housekeeper and the Professor has praise for The Diving Pool.

Book trivia: The Housekeeper and the Professor is short, only 180 pages long.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Japanese Journeys” (p 117).