Last fall two of our favorite books were from Down Under, Hannah Kent's Burial Rights and Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project. Burial Rights was one of those books where we had a ton of recs, six in all. We even got to host a visit from Hannah Kent, and the enthusiasm keeps going. On August 4, we're reading Burial Rights for our in-store lit group.
The other Australian novel that several of us read was Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project. It's a completely different sort of book from Burial Rights, a romantic comedy in the most traditional sense, but unlike a lot of books that promises laughs, The Rosie Project really delivers. At one point, I almost fell off my seat in a giggle fit.
This past April, we hosted a day of schools and one library event with Andy Griffiths, said to be the J.K. Rowling of Australian, he's that big. We were celebrating the release of The 26-Story Treehouse, a very crazy early reader about two boys who top the most amazing treehouse ever (as told in The 13-Story Treehouse) with one that is even more amazing. A head's up for you, The 39-Story Treehouse is coming soon; it's already out and winning awards in Australia, as you'll see below. Mr. Griffiths also has a great sense of humor; it must be part of the national agenda.
While kids were getting their books signed, and continuing into our stock signing (plus I got one for Denise, of course), we chatted about Australian fiction. I asked him what were the hot books there and guess what he told me? The two most-popular books were Burial Rights and The Rosie Project.
And it was just a few days later that the Australian Book Industry Awards were Released. And look who made the list!
The winners of the 2014 Australian Book Industry Awards:
General Fiction Book of the Year: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Text Publishing)
Literary Fiction Book of the Year: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Macmillan)
General Nonfiction Book of the Year: The Stalking of Julia Gillard by Kerry-Anne Walsh (Allen and Unwin)
Illustrated Book of the Year: I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson (Macmillan)
Biography of the Year: The Crossroad by Mark Donaldson (Macmillan)
Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0 to 8 years): The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Macmillan)
Book of the Year for Older Children (8 to 14 years): Weirdo by Anh Do (Scholastic Press)
International Book of the Year: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Allen and Unwin)
Book of the Year: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Text Publishing)
Congrats to Kent and Griffiths--I'm wondering if any books win the award that are meant for zero-year-old children.
But the best news is that our daily double is now a trifecta. We have Graeme Simsion coming to Boswell for The Rosie Project's paperback release, on Wednesday, June 18, 7 pm. If you had told me that we'd have three of the top Australian authors coming to Milwaukee in one calendar year, I'd say you were a crazy koala. It cost a lot of money to fly folks from Australia to the United States. But needless to say, if the tour works, it can pay big dividends.
Here are our three recommendations for The Rosie Project from current Boswellians.
"Genetics professor Don Tillman, a Sheldon Cooper type with a little less ego and a tad more id, devises a questionnaire designed to find him a marriage partner. At the same time, his running partner, working on a grand sexual experiment of his own, throws a control into the mix, a grad student who seemingly fails all criteria. Nonetheless, they might be able to help each other, as Rosie happens to be curious about who exactly is her genetic father, and Don happens to have a DNA analyzer. The result is a romantic comedy with some modern twists. As Tillman is decided on the Spectrum, I worried a bit as to whether I was laughing at Tillman or with him. In the end, I decided I was on his side all the way and went with it. (In my head, after the story officially ends, I’m convinced he reverts back a bit and that makes me smile. I think that’s what Rosie would want in the end too)."--Daniel Goldin
"What are the odds that a 39-year-old, non-neurotypical genetics professor (who's never had a second date) will find the perfect wife using a sixteen-page questionnaire? The average person would say slim-to-none. But 39-year-old, non-neurotypical genetics professor Don Tillman would rattle off a number with at least sixteen decimal places derived from a precise set of carefully chosen parameters consistent with his own unique circumstances. Graeme Simsion's debut novel, The Rosie Project, is a funny, original story about first love fraught with faux pas. Don Tillman may not be proficient in empathy, but he is utterly lovable. Rosie may not be perfect, but she may just be perfect for Don. Set aside a few hours for Rosie: once you start reading, you won't want to stop until you finish this fun, whirlwind adventure!" --Mel Morrow
"Don Tillman is a genetics professor on the hunt for a wife. His methods vary a little from most men. He doesn’t frequent bars, visit dating sites or attend singles mixers. His approach consists of a simple 16-page questionnaire to find the perfect partner. When he meets Rosie Jarman, she fails to meet any of his carefully chosen criteria. The Rosie Project is the first novel from Simsion, and reminds us that love does not always follow the rules, and that even a scientist can be surprised by romance." --Sharon Nagel
The book's been a huge international hit. The U.S. hardback jacket may have put too much emphasis on romance, with a big heart on the cover. The U.S. followed the lead of other countries with the paperback jacket, which puts more emphasis on the bicycle (Don bikes everywhere). The lobster also turned out to be a popular cover motif.
There are lots of other fans in the Milwaukee area, like Jim Higgins of the Journal Sentinel. From his review: "The first third of The Rosie Project opens as strongly as any comic novel I've read in a long time. The middle slice wobbles occasionally, perhaps in keeping with Don's own wobbly attempts to integrate what he's learning from Rosie. The book roars at high speed to its conclusion. It's a comedy, so we know where they're going."
Oh, and I like to just quote one little nibble of a review and link to the rest, but I can't resist. Here's the review's opening sentence. "In Star Trek terms, Don Tillman, the hero of Graeme Simsion's romantic comedy The Rosie Project, is a whole lotta Data and a little bit Worf. He's trying to figure out human emotional behavior through logic, and he's pugnacious about it."
But wait, there are more fans in Milwaukee. On WUWM's Lake Effect, Mitch Teich and Stephanie Lecci not only interviewed to author in Australia, but wondered about the possible quandary in the book. Can you laugh at a person with disabilities? Because it seems clear in the book that Don is undiagnosed but likely on the Autism Spectrum. But the real question might be, "Can you laugh along with somebody with disabilities?" Don's clearly the hero of the novel and nobody how different his decision making is from mine, I never felt anything but identification with him. They reported that Tillman said he's gotten almost universally positive feedback from the Asberger's community.
Our event has no co-sponsorship this time. I didn't really investigate this until it was too late, and of course I worried about folks reactions. But I shouldn't have. The Rosie Project may be commercial (the movie's in the works, the sequel, The Rosie Effect, is set for this fall, at least in Australia), but I love commercial stuff that's expertly done. And this book hits the mark. As my old co-worker Mary used to say, "I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats."
See you next Wednesday, June 18, 7 pm.