The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

rosie-projectYou know that feeling that you get when you are watching the perfect romantic comedy? Yeah, that’s what it feels like to read Graeme Simsion‘s The Rosie Project. It is not the most astounding work of literary fiction to hit the shelves, but it is a darn good read. I read it quickly over two days and could not put it down. It was a huge hit in Australia, where it was originally published, and is now taking the rest of the world by storm. This is one of those books that should be on your radar this summer.

The story is about a socially awkward genetics professor looking for love in all the wrong places. He is quirky, charming and adorable as a character, but not what most women are looking for in a life partner. He falls in love without realizing it with a woman who is utterly unsuited to his rigidly scheduled life. Hilarious antics ensue.

The reason why I was so taken with The Rosie Project is because it is unlike any other novel I have read. Comparisons have been drawn to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because the protagonists of both novels sit somewhere on the Autism spectrum, but beyond that the stories are dissimilar. At its heart The Rosie Project is a love story. A very funny and ill-fated love story. I felt invested in the characters and truly wanted them to find each other and happiness.

Who would like this book? With summer upon us, I would say that The Rosie Project is the perfect summer read. Not too heavy, funny and smart just like any romantic comedy movie should be. If it were a movie I think it would likely star Steve Carell. It is something you could immerse yourself in during an airplane ride and arrive at your destination feeling relaxed, entertained and happy.

Penelope by Rebecca Harrington

penelopeRebecca Harrington has written one helluva good romp through freshman year at Harvard in her debut novel Penelope. It is a laugh out loud funny story about a socially awkward girl trying to navigate the highly fraught waters of Harvard’s social world. She is a fish out of water. When everyone else seems to know everybody else in this elite fishbowl, she knows no one. When everyone else seems to know where they should be and more importantly with whom they should be seen, Penelope is left wandering around alone, longing to play Tetris.

Penelope was not unused to nerdiness. She had hung around with nerds her whole life, or tried to, for nerds can be very exclusionary.

Harrington’s brilliance comes from the way she portrays the people with whom Penelope comes into contact. To a certain extent these people are mere stereotypes of those one meets at university, but in a way that is precisely what makes them so real. One of the things I loved was how the ‘cool’ people in the novel are constantly describing one another as ‘hilarious’. This phrase is used so often to describe anyone and everyone that it essentially becomes meaningless and turns into the most banal of statements. Similarly, all the students that surround Penelope are constantly complaining about all the work they have to do. Again, this seems to be a familiar chorus of university life, complaints about workload while doing very little besides complaining about it. And while everyone else seems to be struggling to get good grades, Penelope sails on by, barely aware that there are assignments to be done. That seems to be the one fault in the novel. I was left wondering how Penelope ever managed to get into Harvard when the competition seems so tough.

Who would like this book? This book is for those who love a good humorous look at college life. Penelope is funny and makes for good social commentary that goes beyond the Ivy League. In some ways it reminded me of I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. Both novels deal with the perils of social relationships in closed communities and devastation that one false step can unleash. Penelope is a fast read and would be ideal for a plane or one concentrated sitting.