I came upon The Rosie Project when my friend Jason and I took a wander through Chapters after meeting up for coffee and a catch-up for the first time in months. The Man Booker Prize Longlist for 2013 was recently announced, and Jason’s a big book fan, so we went for a browse. And then I saw Rosie, with her bright cover and charming description. I was particularly taken with the description of Graeme Simsion, a former IT consultant who decided to try something new.
It said: “Graeme Simsion, PhD, was the owner of a successful consulting business before he decided, at fifty, that he would become a writer. The Rosie Project is his first novel.”
If Graeme Simsion can career change, so can I! I thought. Sometimes, I feel self-conscious about going back to school after a moderately successful career in online media. But here was Graeme Simsion’s little bio on the back flap of The Rosie Project giving me a boost of inspiration.
I liked him already, just for that. And after my friend Jen, who works at Chapters and came over to say hi, gave the book her seal of approval, I was sold. Or rather Jason was sold – he promptly bought Rosie and turned her over to me to read first. That’s a nice friend for you (and also, he had the entire Man Booker Prize Longlist to get through first, which is no small feat). So I took Rosie home and promptly fell in love.
As Anita Sethi of The Guardian points out, this isn’t the first book to tackle the subject of autism. As a matter of fact, I often find myself drawn to books (fiction and nonfiction) about people on the autistic spectrum. I devoured Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when it first came out, and last fall, I was completely captivated by Matthew Dicks’ Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, which I picked up to read on a long-haul flight. I also really enjoyed Daniel Tammet’s fascinating memoir Born On a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, which my friend Sarah lent to me when we lived in Manchester a few years ago.
But while it’s not the first book with a protagonist on the autistic spectrum, it’s rare to find one as charming as this. Don Tillman is one of the most endearing leading men I’ve come across in a long time. Simsion clearly loves him (he’s even set up a Twitter account for Don, written in his voice, which is really, really fun), and if you read this lovely long Sydney Morning Herald interview with the author, you’ll love him too.
It’s a really sweet, unlikely and unconventional love story with lots of charm, humour, moments of sweetness and sadness, and lots of other literary and film references (To Kill A Mockingbird! When Harry Met Sally!) that made me feel very happy and very at home reading Rosie. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a spectacularly-crafted romantic comedy, which is a genre that never gets old for me.
In short, go out and get The Rosie Project. Seriously, go get it right now. Best book of 2013 so far.