Two wonderful books have recently crossed the bigbookcase desk. Both have been at the centre of publishing industry hype via strong sales, awards and/or film options. Having now read these books, they clearly both deserve every second of hype and more. If it is time for you to spoil yourself with a new book, head to your local bookseller for one (or both) of these titles. And don’t walk, run.
by Graeme Simsion
Text Publishing, 2013
Professor Don Tillman is a quirky man: logical, organised, intellectually brilliant yet utterly socially awkward. Don clearly displays elements of Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism, a fact which is evident to everybody except him. The premise of The Rosie Project is that a very logical Don realises he is lonely and sets about to rectify this problem in a very scientific manner, devising a questionnaire to screen future candidates for the position of his wife. Yet love is the least scientific of all the human elements and Don finds himself in all sorts of bother, especially when he meets Rosie.
Simsion began this book years ago as a screenplay, and after a somewhat roundabout voyage his project ended up as a novel and the feel good hit of 2013, with the rights being sold in over thirty countries. After its original inception as a screenplay it is ironic that after the success of the book, the film rights have been promptly optioned by Sony Pictures.
The Rosie Project is utterly charming, heart-warming and laugh out loud hilarious. It is a novel about human relationships in all their forms, and about the power of love to overcome almost anything.
by Rachel Joyce
Black Swan, 2013
Harold Fry is a retired Englishman, barely existing in a repetitive and melancholic fashion with his wife Maureen. One ordinary morning he receives a letter from an old colleague Queenie, who informs him that she has a terminal illness. On his way to post a reply, Harold decides to walk to the next post box, then the next and suddenly he has embarked upon a pilgrimage to walk from one end of the country to the other. He believes this act of faith will save Queenie.
As he walks, Howard slowly comes to life. This gentle and, as we discover, damaged man undergoes a significant transformation as he methodically puts one foot in front of the other. The reader becomes aware of many Christian references as the novel proceeds: faith, pilgrimage, discipleship, love and redemption. Howard revisits the painful aspects of his life, including the troubled relationships with his son and wife, and we share his grief. During his journey Harold meets a succession of eclectic characters, and eventually word of his pilgrimage leaks to the media and suddenly Harold’s humble journey turns into something more. Yet its ultimate purpose remains unchanged and the final scenes will bring more than a tear to your eye.
As a debut novelist, Rachel Joyce has achieved something very rare – a novel examining the very core of human existence which still manages to be joyous, inspiring and utterly exhilarating. No wonder it was long listed for the 2012 Man Booker prize.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will make you laugh yet it will break a little piece of your heart. Touching and ultimately uplifting, Joyce’s prose is deceptively simple yet utterly moving. If you read just one book this year, make it this one.