The Rosie Project. By Graeme Simsion
It’s an old adage: don’t look for love, let love find you. It’s the underlying truth behind the success of former IT consultant Graeme Simsion’s debut novel The Rosie Project.
The self-confessed geek has also stuck to that equally old piece of advice: write about what you know. In an interview with Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme, Simsion said he had based the character of Don (the main protagonist) on men he worked with. He said they made lists, judged women in unrealistic ways and were emotionally and socially challenged. And there lies the humour.
The unlikely object of Don’s desire is the complete anti-thesis of his mission. In fact he writes her off immediately as being unsuitable. For Rosie is the opposite of what he wants. She is open, demonstrative, swears, is a smoker, a barmaid, a non-list maker and emotionally spontaneous.
Geneticist Don is a premier division nerd who treats the dating of women and the search for a life-long partner in the way a Which Guide ascertains the qualities of the perfect washing machine. His list of what is desirable is as unrealistic as that of most men’s criteria of what they see as the perfect woman. It’s a fantasy. Except for one thing: most men don’t write down their requirements, and then hand them out to prospective girlfriends in the form of a survey. How much do they weigh, what qualifications do they have, and are they fertile?
The novel’s construction is classical in its adherence to the principals of Pride and Prejudice. Boy meets girl. Boy rejects girl. Boy then finds girl attractive. Girl rejects boy. Girl finds boy attractive. Complex sub-plots and a mutual mission in life: Don helps Rosie discover her real father.
We know what is going to happen or the book would be called The Rosie Project Aborted. But it’s the constant humour and clash of ideas and opinions which create numerous laugh-out-loud moments. It locks into the basic truth that men and women come from different planets. Some of the funniest moments come from Don’s misunderstandings of what is happening. Written in the first person we see the world through Don’s eyes and quickly see what he doesn’t see.
Beautifully paced, it’s a page turner from the start as we witness the evolution of Don’s character, in a kind of coming-of-age story for forty-year-old male virgins. A love story furnished with smelly trainers, frozen lobsters and lots and lots of lists.
There is a YouTube video of the author speaking about the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXGY4TlvZD0
For more by the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottrem.co.uk
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