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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, Review: Non-neurotypical humour

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a modern take on the classic screwball romance tackling tough societal issues with compassion and hilarity. Read on for why I think this is groundbreaking contemporary literature.

The Rosie Project Synopsis

The Rosie Project Graeme Simsion

The art of love is never a science.

Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife.

In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs The Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a 16-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. Yet, Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Although Don easily disqualifies her as a suitable candidate (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”), he is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father.

When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie and the realisation that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.

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BOOK REVIEW

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion has been labelled ‘the feel-good novel of 2013’ — it is that and so much more. This very modern take on the classic screwball romance tackles some tough societal issues with just the right mix of hilarity and compassion. The mystery plotline was sufficiently complex to be compelling in its own right also.

In Don Tillman, Simsion has created one of the most charming and endearing characters I have come across in literature – he’s quite hard to describe… perhaps think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory with a touch of Ben Stiller’s character in Meet the Parents and a helping of old-world gallantry.

What I particularly liked about The Rosie Project is that it’s not just the behaviour of protagonist Don Tillman that is satirized. The whole ragtag cast of ostensibly more ‘normal’ and ‘socially acceptable’ characters Simsion has surrounded him with are considered through the same lens. In this way, Simsion highlights that there are more similarities than differences between us all.

Audio format

I listened to The Rosie Project in the audio format narrated by Dan O’Grady. I think his delivery really captured Don’s guilelessness and enthusiastic pursuit for happiness, coupled with the insecurities and frustrations he commonly felt when trying to negotiate the minefield of social interaction.

But why, why, why can’t people just say what they mean?

For all the laugh out loud moments, and there were many, the underlying messaging is mature and nuanced. Weaknesses can become strengths in the right context, but sometimes we can derive benefit (for ourselves, not just for others) by moderating our behaviour.

Groundbreaking contemporary fiction

The Rosie Project does not fit into any single fiction genre I can think of other than contemporary.

It is not quite chick-lit, nor is it quite lad-lit – it is something more unique. Male and female alike will be the better for having read this book.

It is easy to see why the rights for The Rosie Project have been sold to more than 30 countries. Graeme Simsion has combined the universal themes of acceptance and the pursuit of happiness with a wonderfully flawed leading man and a colourful ensemble cast. The end result is a truly memorable and uplifting reading experience.

UPDATE: Graeme spoke candidly about the people in his life that inspired the Don Tillman character in a Brisbane Writers Festival session I was lucky enough to attend >> Read full article.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5  —  Overall 4.75

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Genre: Humour, Romance, Mystery, Audio, Drama

Related Reads:
Read our reviews of Simsion’s sequel The Rosie Effect (2014), The Rosie Result (2019), his standalone novel The Best of Adam Sharp (2016) and Two Steps Forward (2017) co-written with his wife Anne Buist.

* This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2013.

About the Author, Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simsion was born in 1956. He is an IT consultant and data analyst with an international reputation, has taught at four Australian universities and is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Melbourne University. He is a founder of Pinot Now, a wine importer and distributor, and is married to Anne Buist, a professor of psychiatry who writes erotic fiction. They have two children.

In 2007, Graeme completed his PhD in information systems and enrolled in the professional screenwriting course at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He has made a number of short films. His screenplay, The Rosie Project, won the Australian Writers Guild / Inception Award for Best Romantic Comedy Script in 2010. While waiting for this to be produced, he turned it into a novel which in June 2012 won the Victorian Premier’s award for an unpublished fiction manuscript.

Check out Graeme’s website or connect with him on Twitter.