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International publishers and movie producers rush to sign up Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project
A first novel about a man with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome has become a publishing phenomenon, snapped up by publishers in more than 34 countries, from China to Portugal.
As a comic story of disability, it is an unlikely hit. But publishers believe that with its strong main character, the book will challenge perceptions of people with the disorder.
The Rosie Project tells the story of a socially challenged genetics professor, Don Tillman, who decides to look for a wife, drawing up a "scientifically valid" questionnaire to assist his quest for the perfect woman. Tillman lectures on Asperger's without realising that he displays its symptoms himself – in his use of language, difficulty in reading social signals and obsession with detail.
The novel is being described as a cross between Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, about a teenager with Asperger's, and David Nicholls's One Day, a bittersweet love story – both huge bestsellers.
Its author is Graeme Simsion, 56, an Australian IT consultant with a British father. He told the Observer that he was "flabbergasted" to learn of frenzied bidding by publishers worldwide. Until recently, he had never even dared to imagine that he had the ability to write a novel. Advances of more than £1.2m so far have already allowed him to become a full-time writer.
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