The Rosie Project is a sweet, funny, fairly predictable, yet somehow clever story. The protagonist in this first-person narrative is Don Tillman, a genetics professor, who is clearly extremely intelligent but suffers from odd behaviours and an inability to interact with other people in a ‘normal’ way. As a result he has only two living friends and has never had a girlfriend. To remedy this latter problem, Don embarks on a quest he calls the Wife Project, which involves potential candidates filling out an extensive questionnaire, in an effort to filter out anyone who would be incompatible with Don’s curious behaviours and lifestyle. In the course of this project, a woman named Rosie shows up one day in Don’s office, who Don assumes is an applicant for the Wife Project. One thing leads to another and Don ends up spearheading the Father Project, an attempt to discover the identity of Rosie’s biological father.
The first-person narrative of this story is really what elevates it above the level of silly romantic comedy. Don’s social ineptitudes are quite funny and he often finds himself in tricky but amusing situations. It becomes clear fairly early on that he probably lands somewhere on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum or at least has a mild case of Asperger’s syndrome. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel until the last three chapters, which unfold in a very predictable way. Still, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to see what else Mr. Simsion has written. To my surprise I discovered that The Rosie Project is his first and only novel. The other publications to his credit are all peer-reviewed publications; Simsion has a PhD in data modelling. From the acknowledgement section I read that Simsion wrote The Rosie Project as part of a novel-writing course he was taking and that it actually started out as a screenplay. I also learned (thank you, Wikipedia) that Simsion won an award for the book – the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award – and that he has earned $1.8 million after the rights to it were sold internationally. Since then the book has been optioned to Sony Entertainment and has been published in over 30 languages! This guy fascinates me. He’s got a PhD in a very technical subject area, yet decides one day to write a lighthearted, comedic novel that ends up being a bestseller and a film! I am filled with envy. Soon as I finish this post I’m looking up novel-writing courses at my local fine arts college.