What a joy this little novel is, from start to finish. Funny and smart and a welcome reprieve from my string of worthy but mighty bleak books of late.
It started as an award-winning screenplay by Graeme Simsion, who turned it into a book which earned him million-dollar bids from U.S. and British publishers after hitting the bestseller lists in Australia. The Rosie Project is now an international bestseller and a movie-in-the-making. Incredible.
It's a light romantic romp led by narrator-protagonist Don Tillman, whose brilliance as a genetics professor doesn't quite sync up with his (lack of) interpersonal skills. Readers will quickly infer that Don's internal monologue and external actions point toward some level of Asperger's, yet Don seems entirely unaware that he is "suffering from a syndrome". And it's the tension between Don's infrequent moments of incisive self-awareness and his frequent misunderstanding of social situations that fuel plenty of the plot here. Pepper Don's days with a cast of diverse - and often also eccentric - supporting characters then focus Don's considerable determination and gift for logical planning upon "The Wife Project" and you've got yourself a story that provokes grin after grin.
To enjoy this novel fully, you must accept the rom-com structure, knowing that - however unlikely - all will work out well in the end and you must feel comfortable with the idea that each human being is a specific person, not simply a "syndrome". Simsion made a wise choice in voicing this novel from Don's perspective, as it helps us readers to laugh with rather than at the protagonist. If you can do that, you will find much to enjoy about The Rosie Project.
Don's voice, his perspective, and his journey kept me swiftly turning the pages through the first third of this novel and then rationing chapters when the beautifully voiced audiobook from the library arrived: I simply wanted to savor the lightness of this novel during these darker days. And I hereby encourage you to do the same.
MFB with a smile on my face,
p.s. I should confess that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon are two of my all-time favorite tandem (print alternating with audiobook) "reads" of all time, so perhaps I have a particular fascination with listening in on the lives of brilliant, decent, yet socially atypical protagonists.