I am SO delighted when I find an amazing book to read — and that’s exactly what happened last weekend. I don’t often fall in love with books, but I tumbled hard for The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion of Australia. This novel was Amazon’s book of the month for October, 2013, but somehow I missed it.
Professor Don Tillman, the main character, is a genetics professor with Asperger’s syndrome who micromanages his life and has never had a serious romantic relationship (for obvious reasons). He launches a Wife Project that includes a hilarious questionnaire meant to weed out imperfect women. Then he meets Rosie — his complete opposite — and begins a journey of the heart that causes readers to think about love, being different, and how it’s never too late to change. I felt oddly compelled to read sections of the book aloud to my husband, who finally asked me to stop interrupting him.
My immediate thought upon finishing this book was: Where’s the movie? A visit to the author’s web page reveals the screen play has been optioned by SONY pictures. And more good news: Graeme is working on a sequel to the novel. (http://graemesimsion.com/)
One joy of The Rosie Project is the first person narration — something I usually don’t care for because so many books with that viewpoint fall apart. Although it seems deceptively easy, first person is a huge challenge. Everything in the story must be filtered through a single character who does not have access to the thoughts and feelings of anyone else. Because readers are stuck inside one person’s head for a long journey, that character’s voice must be fascinating, unique, and definitely not a clone of the author.
In The Rosie Project, Don Tillman is a perfectly formed character. I don’t want him to be fiction — I want to meet him and have lunch. I want him to move in next door. Don’s unusual brain makes him both exceptional and socially deficient: presenting a dead flounder to one of his students; wearing the same clothes every day for efficiency; obsessive thinking; learning to dance with a skeleton. . . the quirky behavior seems natural when we understand how he thinks. And mightn’t that be true for all the strange people in our lives?
Conversely, in another first person book, I stopped reading midway through when the main character began making stupid decisions that did not fit her level of intelligence. The character’s actions were obvious ploys by the author to enliven a plot that had already gone flat. No such problem in The Rosie Project, where even the strangest events unfold organically from Don Tillman’s personality. I was delighted to follow professor Don Tillman’s odd mind for 300 pages, and I hope Graeme Simsion will come along soon with a follow up book.