The Rosie Project, by Australian author Graeme Simsion (who taught at a university I attended actually, and while I may have never met him, I still think this qualifies as ‘smart by association’), is a witty and fresh look at the ‘chick lit’ genre, filled to the brim with chuckles and delightful characters.

Don Tillman is a highly intelligent Professor of Genetics (although I doubt you’d get many Professor of Genetics who weren’t highly intelligent) who likes things to be just right in his neat, tidy and very organised world.  And usually he is rather successful at achieving this in every aspect of his life.  Except one.  His love life.  Time and again Don finds he strikes out on the first date, so he decides to take ‘fate’ into his own hands and create ‘The Wife Project’ a detailed questionnaire that grills a woman from her drinking and smoking habits, to her profession, right down to how much stock she puts in ice-cream flavours.

Ingenuous.  There’s no way that this can go wrong in any way, shape or form.  In 20 pages he’ll find the girl and run off into the sunset.  Bada-bing, bada-boom.

Ha!  Remember, this is a ‘chick lit’ novel so expect a (thoroughly predicable) spanner in the works.

Enter Rosie.  She teams up with Don to discover who her long-lost father is and a connection is formed.  Which is all well and good, except she isn’t what Don, or ‘The Wife Project’ are looking for…plus he’s fairly flawed himself.

OK, so as I previously mentioned, this is a book that is easy to read with an uncomplicated storyline and loveable characters.  At no point will The Rosie Project end up on Australia’s 100 Books To Read Before You Die.  Graeme Simsion, while very successful in his own right, is most probably not going to go down as a remembered author, a la Orwell, Austen or Burgess.

But so what?  Reading these sort of books can go two ways.  You can get the awful, awful spectrum of ‘chick lit’ that is filled with ‘buxom babes’ who are covered in jewels, sleep with countless men and invariably end up in a murder/crime scene/sex scandal of some kind.

Yes, Jackie Collins I am referring to every single book you have ever written.

Now these type of books, while easy to read, also make your brain slowly turn to mush.  While it’s either the quality of the writing that does this, or the fact that their horrendous, derogative and downright sexist (ironic considering it’s usually a woman who has written them) plot lines cause you to start beating your head against a brick wall to make it stop.

OR.

Or, you get a second type of chick lit that while still easy to read, reminds me of that lovely feeling of adjusting to a warm bath. Ahhhh.  Lovely.  And The Rosie Project was one of these.

Sure the story line was predicable, the twist practically non-existent and the finale an absolute cliche.  But it was also a story that had charming, three dimensional characters.  Simsion’s writing was clear and enjoyable to read, but also without the unnecessary fluff so often in this genre.

At times, I truly wanted to have a chuckle as I reading, which backfired more than once as I have a tendency to read in public.  And I absolutely fell in love with the narrator and titular character, Don Tillman.  Not in a “I want to marry you” kind of way, but in a way where he just resonated with me.  Simsion doesn’t paint Don as a perfect Lothario who has a way with the ladies, but rather the opposite.  He’s awkward, obsessive, socially inept but at the bottom of it he really does care for Rosie, and that is far more charming than a guy who knows the right thing to say at the perfect time.

While I think it is important to try different genres when it comes to literature, and the ‘classics’ are a necessity if you want to understand how books and styles of writing have evolved, I also do get a lot of joy out of picking up a fun book that I can read in a couple of days.  Particularly one that is well-written too.

For anyone who wants a bit of a laugh, a light read, a likeable character, or perhaps even a few cheeky references to Melbourne (my home!) then The Rosie Project would be a wonderful read for you.

What do you think of ‘chick lit’?  Do you prefer light reads or the heavyweights?  Do ‘comedy’ books really make you laugh?  Let me know!

the rosie project by graeme simsion

The Rosie Project – (image taken from http://www.penguin.com)

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