« The Red Room by Ridley Pearson | Main | The Fever by Megan Abbott »

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

First published in Australia in 2013; published by Simon & Schuster in hardcover on October 1, 2013 and in paperback on June 3, 2014

The Rosie Project is written in the first person using a stuffy, intellectualized voice that is perfectly consistent with the stuffy, intellectualized narrator, Don Tillman. If you've seen Doc Martin, you have an idea of what Tillman is like. Not many novels make me laugh out loud, but the Tillman character in The Rosie Project managed to do that repeatedly.

A professor of genetics, Tillman is insensitive, obsessive, inflexible about his daily schedule, socially awkward, extremely bright, and unable to solve the Wife Problem (i.e., he has no chance of finding one). He regards emotion as an annoying distraction and admires people with Asperger's because they they lack emotional connections that impair the ability to focus. At romance, Tillman is hopeless. Almost all women consider him an unsuitable partner (blunt rudeness is not charming) and he considers almost all women unsuitable, particularly if they waste his time with small talk, horoscopes, fashion, religion, homeopathy, or pretty much anything else that isn't related to a stirring discussion of science.

A systematic effort to find a wife using questionnaires affirms that no women meet his standards. The Wife Project is a flop until his friend (he has only two, the other being his friend's wife) fixes him up with Rosie. She is, Tillman concludes, completely unsuitable as a wife -- she's a vegetarian, a smoker, bad at math, and habitually late -- but as he helps her with a project of her own (determining the identity of her biological father), Tillman is perplexed to find that he enjoys her company. But is he equipped to love her?

The Rosie Project follows the course that is expected of a romantic comedy, but the course is not entirely predictable despite leading to the kind of ending that the genre demands. The plot thread involving the mystery of Rosie's father adds an additional layer of interest to the novel. If the moral of the story -- nobody's perfect -- is obvious, that makes it no less true. The corollary to that moral -- love is expressed by a willingness to accept people as they are -- is also well illustrated. It might be possible to change your behavior, the novel suggests, but making a fundamental change of personality is a more doubtful task.

Although The Rosie Project is very funny, it also makes a serious point about using simplistic labels like "obsessive-compulsive" and "bipolar" and "Asperger's" to categorize people because their brains are "configured differently from those of the majority of humans." Regarding functional people as having a "disorder" because of the way they process information often does them a disservice. A lot of people would dislike Tillman because of his nonexistent social skills (his Dean is anxious to find an excuse to fire him despite his intellect) but others (and I am among them) would find him to be a refreshingly honest, "no BS" kind of guy. Anyway, social skills are overrated, particularly by those who have them.

In the end, the serious points the book makes are overshadowed by the laughter it inspires. The good humor that pervades The Rosie Project makes it an easy book to love.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.