A word from Germaine Johnson, star of The Helpline by SJV
Of all the certificates and participation ribbons I’ve ever received, the one that makes me most proud is when I was crowned Boronia Primary School’s World Sudoku Champion. This was in back in 1992, when I was eleven.
It was a hotly contested competition. There were three of us competing but I was the winner. I completed a level 1 Sudoku in the fastest time. Level 1 is supposedly the easiest but that specific one was unusually difficult. I tried not to lord my victory over the others. Susan Finch was only eight and Simon Peters asked to leave my party early, which affected his performance.
You might wonder how being so good at Sudoku has helped me in life. Obviously there’s an inherent satisfaction in being able to work out which number goes in which box but if you think outside the box, which Sudoku doesn’t overly encourage, it helps in other ways also.
These are the top examples:
Often in life we’re forced into situations that require us to talk to strangers. Generating mutually interesting topics can be challenging. Sudoku fills this void. There’s nothing more interesting that outlining in great in detail what the problem was and how to solve it. In this way, a Sudoku that took me a half hour to complete could easily provide hours of conversation. More if the other person actually participates or interacts.
2. Employment opportunities
For jobs that require being putting numbers in boxes Sudoku is the perfect training ground. Data entry is one example but there are others—I can’t do all the thinking for you.
The day I did my first level 3 Sudoku, was the day I knew I could do anything*. That’s the level of confidence it’s given me.
*Exceptions to this include: brain surgery, space ship design and anything related to sports (except for power walking—I am great at that).
Senior mathematician & star of The Helpline
*Technically there is some paper in the printer, the fax machine and people do use note pads for writing on but we have removed the bins.
Witty, big-hearted and hugely enjoyable, The Helpline is what you might get if you crossed The Rosie Project with Parks and Recreation. If you have ever wrestled with the world of office politics, this charming debut novel is for you.
Office life can be a minefield …
Germaine Johnson likes suduko, biscuits, maths and Chinese food. She’s less sure about the complexities of social interaction and her tendency to just say what she thinks often lands her in hot water. Unfortunately, after ‘the incident’ at Wallace Insurance, she finds herself unemployed.
When her cousin suggests a job at the local council, manning the Senior Citizens Helpline, Germaine really doesn’t have any other option than to say yes. It’s still social interaction, but at a safe distance. However, it turns out Mayor Verity Bainbridge has something more interesting in mind for her. A secret project to stop ‘the troublemakers’ at the senior citizens centre and their feud with the golf club next door. Germaine believes she is the no-nonsense woman for the job – until when she’s forced to get to know the troublemakers and things get more complicated.
About the author
Katherine Collette is a writer and environmental engineer who works exclusively on sewerage systems. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. She was inspired to write her debut novel, The Helpline, after meeting the despotic president of a senior citizens centre. This obnoxious 85-year-old was furious at a Chinese group for playing mah-jong in the bingo room and threw out a cake plate belonging to the Miniature Train Society because she was angry with them. The council, feeling she had to go, arranged a sort of coup and had her replaced. Katherine loved that the same things that play out on the world stage—power, ambition, politics—were playing out at this level.