The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, Text Publishing, $29.99.
After winning the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for best unpublished manuscript last June, interest in Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project has catapulted from low hum to very loud buzz in the literary world, with 30 countries snapping up the rights, earning the Melbourne-based debut author more than $1 million in advances and a film rights deal to boot.
And as you start reading this extraordinary work, there's no doubt that unlikely hero Don Tillman is about to take the world if not by storm, certainly by rational argument.
Socially awkward, most probably with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome, Don is a 40-year-old geneticist, who following the advice of one of his three friends, elderly neighbour Daphne, given before she descends into the fog of Alzheimer's, begins to search for the perfect life partner.
"Don, you would make someone a wonderful husband," Daphne announces following one of their many dinners together while her husband sits in a nursing home with dementia.
Don, ever pragmatic and under no illusions about his shortcomings, is unsure about Daphne's proclamation, but even his painful logic cannot find fault with her simple argument "there is someone for everyone".
So begins the Wife Project with the flawed help of one of Don's other friends, Gene from the psychology department in the university where Don works, whose open marriage allows him to pursue his own rather more suspect project of bedding as many women of different nationalities as possible.
Don scientifically constructs a questionnaire to find a woman who fits his exacting criteria and begins his search.
Then he meets Rosie and following a hilarious (for us, not Don) first date decides they are incompatible as life partners, but feels inexplicably drawn to her.
Rosie, whose mother is dead, is searching for her real father. She begins the Father Project with Don using his genetic expertise and much more besides to hunt down the culprit.
What happens next is at once laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and so ingenious and compelling you feel as if you want to jump into the world of the novel and join in.
In Don's confessionals, there are echoes of Bridget Jones, writer Nick Hornby and Amelie in the French movie hit.
Also, of course, Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets comes to mind, which Simsion references, but essentially Don Tillman is utterly and beautifully unique and, be warned, you will fall in love with him.
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