The problem with reading books quickly is that I am often left with little to say when review time comes around, because I haven’t spent days or in the cases of some books – weeks, thinking about my feelings and reactions to the work. Instead, I’m going to make arguments against the detractions I’ve read about The Rosie Project which will hopefully help illuminate for you why it is a four star book for me.
As this book is pretty well reviewed around these parts (and how I found out about it in the first place) I’m going to assume that you are familiar with the basic plot. If not, here’s the two sentence summary: Thirty-nine year old Australian geneticist Don Tillman, and likely someone who would’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s if he was coming of age now, decides to attack the problem of finding a life partner in the same manner he would attack solving a science problem. Until a completely incompatible but irresistible woman enters his life with a problem.
It doesn’t necessarily sound like it should be the kind of book to pull you in for marathon reading sessions, but it absolutely is, and that all lines up with wanting to spend time with the protagonist. I’m on the record as saying that not all well written characters are also good protagonists, but in this case I found Don Tillman to be both a well written and good protagonist. I was interested in seeing the world through Don’s eyes, learning about how he coped with the world around him, and hearing him explain his motivations for deviating from his normal schedule, which was at the very core of how he coped with the world around him.
And Rosie ain’t half bad herself.
Some of the detractions I’ve seen in other reviews of this book (not here at CBR HQ) is that the book was written “quickly” and that Mr. Simsion chose to make it a comedy. First, the “quickly” problem: in his acknowledgements Mr. Simsion refers to having written what became The Rosie Project fairly quickly, but notes that it was still 6-7 years from beginning to publication. This is not actually quick. And the basic idea coming together quickly versus the work it takes to get the idea into both a workable novel and in the case of The Rosie Project a screenplay are highly different things. The second issue people have mentioned is that Mr. Simsion chose to make this novel a comedy, and horror of all horrors, something that might be considered a romantic comedy. How dare he! How dare he choose to write something that is genuine and heartfelt and a statement and also funny! We should hang him from the rafters for that!
But to be perfectly serious for just a second this was, to me, a stroke of absolute genius. In the character of Don Tillman we have someone who knows that the way he processes the world around him is different and this difference often causes those around him, the normal folk, to find humor in his actions. So, as the coping mechanism of a highly intelligent person Don latches onto this and in his teens decides to act the clown, to choose the action most likely to cause a laugh, so that the laughter he is causing is his choice. By having the protagonist make this choice, and still be humorous to the reader outside of this coping mechanism, Mr. Simsion has crafted a piece of work that is both accessible to the reader and makes a statement about what we ask others to do by assuming that we’re the norm. Mr. Simsion didn’t have to write a “serious” book to make this serious point.
All that said to say – read this book. It’s a lovely, funny, thoughtful look at what love is and what love does from an angle you may not have previously looked at it from.
P.S. The amazon link above is for the Kindle version of the book.
P.P.S. This review, and all my others, can be found here.