Every now and then I get sent books that already have a fair bit of hype attached. Some of this you can ignore as publicists being good at their jobs, but when two days after receiving The Rosie Project I read in the paper that it had netted debut author Graeme Simsion a very cool £1.2 million advance and produced frenzied bidding from publishers world wide you have to start to think-is this book I’m holding something that’s going to be big?
The answer is yes, yes it is. Look at this cover, because I guarantee in three months time you’ll be seeing it everywhere. A wonderful, life-affirming book that will appeal to millions this is the story of one mans mission to find happiness, or at least to figure out what happiness actually means.
Don is the thirty-nine year old genetics professor who knows exactly how long it takes to do anything, has his meal time schedule written on his whiteboard and only ever listened to Bach in order to calculate the mathematical irregularities in it. Living alone, with few friends, when his neighbour Daphne finally succumbs to her Alzheimer’s and tells him he should look for a partner as he would make a wonderful husband Don takes her literally, Don takes everything literally, and begins a quest to find a wife.
Potential candidate Rosie is immediately stricken off Don’s list. She smokes, she’s always late, she works in a bar and she rips up his schedule. However she is also beautiful and fun and as Don’s carefully managed and structured life begins to unravel she encorages his journey of self discovery as Don slowly figures out why exactly he feels so alone and different to everyone else, why emotions confuse him and why no one else seems to live as logical a life as his.
This beautiful book is simply told, with Don’s character spot on. Readers will be reading in quiet frustration at Don’s seeming inability to do anything as he should; in first chapter, where Don goes to lecture on the genetics of people with Asperger’s. The dramatic irony of Don telling a crowded room that most adults living with the condition have no idea that they are makes this book a clever commentary on our perceptions of neurobiological disorders and how we treat those different to ourselves.
The will-they-won’t-they romance between Don and Rosie is sweet and lingering, but it is Don’t relationship with himself that leaves the lasting impact. Everyone will compare this with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which I believe is an unfair comparison-whereas Christopher is aware of his limitations and is also a teenager with a family and social networks, even if he doesn’t necessarily participate in them, this is a grown man with a successful life who is confused by the world he wishes to be more involved in this is a grown up book about grown ups and, rather than Christopher grown-up, Don is such a good character in his own right I hope he becomes just as famous.
The book is in places charming, hilariously funny (the comic timing to some lines is impeccable) and very very readable, the first third is the slowest but as soon as Rosie, who is a bit mixed up and annoying in places-very Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (who will probably get the part as soon as America nicks it and gets film rights and turns them all into from California), and Don get together everything becomes nose-to-spine. If you have ever shipped Penny and Sheldon, you will love this book.
This is going to be a massive bestseller, because it is the sort of book that you will read and then recommend to all your friends, so I wanted to get in there first and say YES it is worth the hype, I loved it, I loved Don and I can’t wait for the world to meet him.
The Rosie Project is out in April, you should pre-order, it is marvellous.