Polished debut fiction, from Australian author Simsion, about a brilliant but emotionally challenged geneticist who develops a questionnaire to screen potential mates but finds love instead. The book won the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript.
“I became aware of applause. It seemed natural. I had been living in the world of romantic comedy and this was the final scene. But it was real.” So Don Tillman, our perfectly imperfect narrator and protagonist, tells us. While he makes this observation near the end of the book, it comes as no surprise—this story plays the rom-com card from the first sentence. Don is challenged, almost robotic. He cannot understand social cues, barely feels emotion and can’t stand to be touched. Don’s best friends are Gene and Claudia, psychologists. Gene brought Don as a postdoc to the prestigious university where he is now an associate professor. Gene is a cad, a philanderer who chooses women based on nationality—he aims to sleep with a woman from every country. Claudia is tolerant until she’s not. Gene sends Rosie, a graduate student in his department, to Don as a joke, a ringer for the Wife Project. Finding her woefully unsuitable, Don agrees to help the beautiful but fragile Rosie to learn the identity of her biological father. Pursuing this Father Project, Rosie and Don collide like particles in an atom smasher: hilarity, dismay and carbonated hormones ensue. The story lurches from one set piece of deadpan nudge-nudge, wink-wink humor to another: We laugh at, and with, Don as he tries to navigate our hopelessly emotional, nonliteral world, learning as he goes. Simsion can plot a story, set a scene, write a sentence, finesse a detail. A pity more popular fiction isn’t this well-written. If you liked Australian author Toni Jordan's Addition (2009), with its math-obsessed, quirky heroine, this book is for you.
A sparkling, laugh-out-loud novel.