24 November 2013

Funniest Book I've Read This Year: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Like most book bloggers and/or booksellers, I read quite a bit.  My tastes tend towards the literary fiction end of the spectrum, sprinkled with good books from a variety of other genres, but mostly, I enjoy a dark read as much as the next person; Cormac McCarthy's The Road was my idea of beach reading the year it was published.  However, I'm frequently asked by customers for recommendations on the lighter end of the scale, but sometimes the request is for light but not frivolous, or for funny without raunchy, and these questions stump me.

More precisely, I should say they used to stump me. Now, however,  I have The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and it will pretty much be the answer to every adult looking for a novel this holiday season. I read it over vacation in June and roared with laughter. In public.  There may even have been a snort or two.  (There were.) Seriously, this is the funniest book I've read this year, and it's certainly the funniest book I've read in recent memory, including humorist writing like Tina Fey's Bossypants or Ellen DeGeneres's Seriously, I'm Kidding. I liked it so much that I read it again four months later in preparation for the author's appearance at my store. Now it hangs out in the kitchen and I read it over breakfast or while my husband is making dinner, dipping into it here and there, and you know what?  It's still funny.

Here's the 4-1-1: Don Tillman is a professor of genetics at an Australian university. He's brilliant, loyal, and longing for a life partner.  You see, Don Tillman gets a lot of first dates but he's never been on a second one due to a wide range of behavioral quirks. He's got Aspberger's, but you wouldn't say he suffers from it--more like he triumphs from it.  He creates a multi-page questionnaire to weed out unlikely candidates for a wife, sincere but misguided in the belief that scientific method will prevail when more traditional outlets for dating have failed him.

Enter Rosie, sent to Don by his colleague in the psych department, looking for help discovering her birth father. Don thinks his colleague has sent Rosie as part of The Wife Project and is dismayed by this  boisterous, loud, bold, drinking, smoking, and habitually late young woman, yet oddly drawn to her.  To top that off, she also wears jewelry and too much makeup, dyes her hair,  is mathematically incompetent and works in a bar--she is clearly unsuitable for Don, failing the questionnaire spectacularly.
A genetics-inspired helix display for the author

Graeme Simsion with me
You don't have to be a genius to know how the book will end, but you cannot possibly predict the uproarious and delightful scenarios--and the occasional poignant one-- you will pass through to get there. This book has stood the test of all sorts of readers I know, ranging from a couple of 20-somethings up to my nearly-octogenarian mother. Three coworkers, the boyfriend of one of them, my husband, and even a hospital patient who said it was worth the extra pain brought on by her laughter because this book took her mind off of where she was. Like me, she liked it enough that she picked it up again to read as soon as she finished.

There are moments where it flags a bit, but these are rare and fleeting in a generally streamlined and tight novel. And it's no surprise, considering that this novel started off as a screenplay.  This book is funny in a very smart way, and in my experience, that's difficult to do well.  For every When Harry Met Sally in existence, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of bad rom-coms.

I wish I could excerpt a few passages, but the scenes that are so funny are big, and need too much build-up, so it's not really worth doing. Here's one paragraph that might give an idea of Don's habit of being sincere-but-misguided: the one woman who ticked all the right boxes on the questionnaire has also demanded that her partner be a good dancer.  Fair enough, Don thinks (he really is quite fair). He's aware he's being particular and it's reasonable to expect her to be particular, too.  He doesn't know how to dance, but how hard can it be? He watches movies and YouTube videos, practicing with a skeleton in his office. Here's what happens when he and his partner hit the dance floor at a faculty ball on their first date:
"I took her in the standard jive hold that I had practiced on the skeleton and immediately felt the awkwardness, approaching revulsion, that I feel when forced into intimate contact with another human. I had mentally prepared for this, but not for a more serious problem. I had not practiced with music. I am sure I executed the steps accurately, but not at precisely the correct speed, and not at the same time as the beat...Bianca tried to lead, but I had no experience with a living partner, let alone one who was trying to be in control."
Just the phrase "standard jive hold"makes me want to giggle. If you know me in real life, and if we usually exchange Christmas presents, then be forewarned: do not buy yourself a copy of this book.  If you know me in real life and we don't normally exchange Christmas presents, well, you just might get one this year.  That's how much I love this book and want everybody I know to read it, too.  It will make you laugh in all the right ways.

If you don't want to take my word for it, take the word of the acquiring editors the world over who have bought the rights to The Rosie Project in their countries; the number was more than three dozen and counting the last I looked. And naturally since it began as a screen play it will end as one, too.  No word on casting, but I confided to the author that I think he'd do well to court Benedict Cumberbatch for the role of Don Tillman, who was in agreement. He's had a bit of experience playing the brilliant, gorgeous, socially awkward, probably-Aspbergian genius who maybe-just-maybe longs for love:




19 comments:

  1. Yes, to all of what you said! I loved it as well. I do say, when I die and go to heaven, I want your job. Lucky Ducky. I love how inspiring your posts are to read. I write, "Yah, it's good and you should read it." You write this fabulous post above.

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    1. no! I just read your review and it was great for conveying your enthusiasm and just how funny this book is. If you were my customer, I definitely would've sold you this book, so I'm glad to know you loved it, too.

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    1. BC would be the mostest, perfectest person in the world to play Don Tillman. We don't even learn that Don is good-looking until a little more than halfway through the novel, and then we learn that he's, ahem, *extremely* attractive.

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  3. Nice! I picked this one up just recently for the TBR pile. It's in the mountain of books I'm hoping to read before the year is out!

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    1. Definitely read it when you're sick & tired of holiday crap and the disingenuousness of the world and it will make you feel better!

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  4. Well you know I loved it too. Everyone to whom I've recommended it loves it. I do hope the film lives up to our expectations. Yes, you're right, it is rather predictable but there's nothing wrong with a nice happy ending! I must get my copy back so I can have another read!

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    1. Yay! It's great hearing from others who've loved it, too.

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  5. OK I will read this. Because that is a GLOWING recommendation and I respect you, lady.

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    1. YOU WILL LOVE THIS NOVEL. You must or else I will be shouty. No, really, you'll hoot in these scenes: ice cream, jacket, bar tending, ice cream. Pinky swear!

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  6. I'll be reading this book for my book group and I'm getting really excited about it. I've heard so many good things about it, and now your review, too! Yay for Rosie!

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    1. Then that means i"ll be looking for your book review once your group has read it. Yay for Rosie, indeed!

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  7. Funniest book? Including public snorting? Picked it up again not long after finishing? Yes, yes this will have to happen. (All of the Sherlock gifs at the end didn't hurt your argument...)

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  8. Ok, ok, I will go and put this book on my tbr list. At some point, you read the 2,345th glowing review and you must give in!

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  9. Oh Emily, I agree SO MUCH. There is just something about this book that makes you want to start re-reading it immediately. And I tried to find some funny quotes or passages to put in, but you're right - you need the context!

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  10. I've heard so many good things about this book. I can't wait to read it!

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  11. Yes, I loved this book enough to recommend it to some of my book buddies. However....., in order to be totally accurate, I am a good two years away from being an octogenarian...so, still in my 70s.

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  12. a great read - very funny. A little reminiscent of "the curious incident of the dog in the night time" but a more adult read.

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Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)