The Rosie Project was named book of the year at last night’s Australian Book Industry Awards. I loved this book, so totally agree with the verdict.

ImageDon is a very intelligent guy. He just happens to have no social skills whatsoever. After a number of disaster dates, Don decides he should take a scientific approach to finding a wife, creating a survey to find “Mrs Right”. He figures he just needs to sit back and wait for one of the respondents to match his criteria and –voila – find his future spouse. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Don, before the end of The Rosie Project, all his beliefs are turned upside down.

Don’s voice is what makes this book so intriguing and funny – or rather the juxtaposition of his voice with what would be considered normal. His word choice is so stilted and thoughts so nerdy – if the first ten pages don’t have you laughing out loud, it’s possible you have no sense of humour.

Here is an example that many reviewers (including me) loved, where Don arrives at a fancy restaurant wearing a Gore-Tex jacket and is challenged by the doorman:

‘I’m sorry, sir, but we have a dress code,’ said the official.

I knew about this. It was in bold type on the website: Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket.

‘No jacket, no food, correct?’

‘More or less, sir.’

What can I say about this sort of rule? I was prepared to keep my jacket on throughout the meal. The restaurant would presumably be air-conditioned to a temperature compatible with the requirement.

I continued towards the restaurant entrance, but the official blocked my path. ‘I’m sorry. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. You need to wear a jacket.’

‘I’m wearing a jacket.’

‘I’m afraid we require something a little more formal, sir.’

The hotel employee indicated his own jacket as an example. In defence of what followed, I submit the Oxford English Dictionary (Compact, 2nd Edition) definition of ‘jacket’: 1(a) An outer garment for the upper part of the body.

I also note that the word ‘jacket’ appears on the care instructions for my relatively new and perfectly clean Gore-Tex ‘jacket’. But it seemed his definition of jacket was limited to ‘conventional suit jacket’.

‘We would be happy to lend you one, sir. In this style.’

‘You have a supply of jackets? In every possible size?’ I did not add that the need to maintain such an inventory was surely evidence of their failure to communicate the rule clearly, and that it would be more efficient to improve their wording or abandon the rule altogether. Nor did I mention that the cost of jacket purchase and cleaning must add to the price of their meals. Did their customers know that they were subsidising a jacket warehouse?

‘I wouldn’t know about that, sir,’ he said. ‘Let me organise a jacket.’

The scene continues to a hilarious conclusion.

In contrast to Don, who the reader can see very clearly through his own scientific observations, the other characters, even the love interest Rosie, seem less solid. It’s like Simsion spent all his energy on Don and couldn’t give us more than an outline on what makes the other characters tick.

The plot itself also seems to take a back seat to Don’s character. I didn’t feel like I was reading the book to find out what happened next, but rather to see what Don’s reaction would be to what happened next.

To be so focussed on a character’s development was scintillating and gave me the feeling that this book really was more about the journey than the destination.

In summary, I thought it was brilliant and I’m going to give it a 5/5.

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