‘The Rosie Project’ is Graeme Simsion’s first novel and it has taken off with a bang, already selling into thirty countries. Simsion has previously written two non-fiction books as well as short stories, plays and screenplays. ‘The Rosie Project’, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2012, was originally a screenplay, written as part of Simsion’s studies at RMIT.
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics. He has some unusual habits – his life is timed to the last minute, he eats exactly the same meals at the same time every week, he is a master of Aikido but has trouble with social situations. While the author never says as much, the reader deduces that Don may have Asperger’s syndrome. Don himself doesn’t recognise this, however. When he gives a lecture on Asperger’s, a friend asks him if the symptoms remind him of anyone he knows and they do – one of the other professors.
When Don decides that he needs a wife, he approaches this task as he does the rest of his life, with efficiency. A questionnaire is what he needs, he decides, ‘to filter out the time wasters, the disorganised, the ice-cream discriminators, the visual-harassment complainers…’ Don’s questionnaire for ‘The Wife Project’ is both extensive and discriminating. But then along comes Rosie – a smoker, a barmaid, a vegetarian. She is totally unsuitable, but yet Don can’t seem to stop himself from spending time with her.
Don is a wonderful character, who maintains his consistently original persona throughout. There are many delightful one-liners and a couple of laugh out loud moments due to the gap between Don’s view of the world and that of others. When a woman who is clearly interested in him asks him out for a chat he quizzes her on how he should prepare, ‘What specific topics are you interested in?’ When Rosie says, ‘You want to share a taxi?’ Don reflects that it seemed a sensible use of fossil fuel. And when asked if he has ever had sex, Don confirms that he has, on his doctor’s orders, but then ponders that it might become more complicated when there are two people involved.
Simsion acknowledges the inspiration he has gained from classic romantic comedy movies. ‘Cary Grant would have made a perfect Don,’ he says. This book is funny, witty and intelligent – I finished it with a smile on my face.
Boomerang Books are currently giving away copies of ‘The Rosie Project’ and ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsai’, enter here.
If you happen to be in the vicinity of the Snowy Mountains over Easter, and it is a lovely time in the mountains, do come along and see me talking about romantic comedy and landscapes at the Snowy Mountains Writers Festival.