Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison book cover
The Rosie Project (2012) is the story of Don Tillman, Associate Professor of Genetics at a top Australian university. Don is a man of consummate routine and unbending rationality, but, rapidly approaching his fortieth birthday, he remains unmarried and without a life companion. Socially awkward and likely an “Aspy” (person with Asperger’s), Don hasn’t had the best luck with dating. The only logical conclusion to this problem? The Wife Project. A stringent questionnaire, which will eliminate potential partners without the need for the unscientific method of dating. The only problem? Rosie. A grad student who works part-time in a gay bar, Rosie fails almost all the criteria on the questionnaire, and yet Don finds himself spending more and more time with her, assisting in her search to find her genetic father. Sharp logic meets human emotion, and Don’s view of the world grows a little broader as he’s led by Rosie.

It’s evident that the novel is a Rom-Com in essence, but Don’s unusual way of viewing the world makes for an interesting dynamic, and plenty of light comedic relief as he navigates the dating world, which, as Don as an outsider perfectly highlights, is often absurd. While he’s has not been diagnosed with Asperger’s, the depiction of Don’s symptoms along with certain cues leaves little room for interpretation, and a lot of the comedy comes from Don’s confusion about social rules.

Some of the humorous moments hit the mark better than others, but there is an underlying discomfort at laughing at misunderstandings that come from the central character’s lack of social understanding – something which can be far from comic for those on the Autistic spectrum. Don’s condition is perhaps oversimplified, and this only exacerbates the sense of unease that the reader feels. That said, Don is an endearing character, and his view of the world often proves insightful, in small, everyday ways. Besides which, as Don is undiagnosed, there's always the question as to whether his response is in fact rational, and it’s the rest of the world that is irrational: Maybe he's just different, not ‘ill’.

For the most part the romance is pitched nicely between the sentimental and the honest – even when Don can’t comprehend what he’s feeling, or the relationship that is developing, he is disarmingly honest about his own feelings. That said, the change necessary in Don’s personality towards the end of the novel, which facilitates the prototypical Rom-Com conclusion, is, unquestionably, unrealistic. One might allow the author a little leeway here, given the nature of the novel, but honestly, if the story had followed its original trajectory and Don’s personality remained consistent, the ending could have been less tediously neat and a little more interesting.

The novel apparently started life as a screenplay and as the conclusion draws nearer this becomes increasingly evident in the neatness and predictability of the plot. But The Rosie Project is what it is – a quirky Rom-Com that goes exactly where one would expect. There are some interesting moments but don’t expect true insight, rather enjoy some laughs and the feel-good factor that the genre all but promises.

This is a light read, which starts strongly and becomes increasingly predictable and formulaic as it goes on. An interesting twist on the Rom-Com genre.

Useful Links
Reviews of The Rosie Project on Amazon (UK)
Reviews of The Rosie Project on Amazon (US)

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David Nolan (David73277) said...

I think you have summed this one up quite well, Matthew. One of my favourite comic moments was when Don turns up for a date at a fancy restaurant, is told that he needs to wear a jacket, and cannot understand why his highly practical outdoor jacket does not fit the bill. This is more believeable than one might first think, bearing in mind the sartorial reputation of a stereotypical academic.

Anonymous said...

I don't often post comments, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. Your writing style is very elegant and you have a delightful turn of phrase. All your reviews are very thoughtful and thought provoking. Sorry to hear that you have lots on your plate so are unable to post on here as often as before, but I hope all of your endeavors are going well (:

Matthew Selwyn said...

Absolutely - I think the humour is at its best when it's questioning some of needless rules and restrictions we put on ourselves.

Matthew Selwyn said...

And thank you, Anonymous, that was a really lovely comment. I'm still not logging on that much, but it's a great boost to find comments like that when I do :)

It still amazes me that anyone outside my own head has any interest in what I have to say, so I'm grateful for the kind words.

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