Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy that follows all the standard genre plot points: two seemingly mismatched people cross paths almost accidentally. They go on a dinner date that starts badly (you can always count on a snooty restaurant to cause trouble) but, in the end, works out nicely. They find a project that keeps them in each other's company even though they realize (superficially) they are not right for each other. At several points they have minor and major fallings out but manage to recover. By the end, things work out just fine for the couple and even for their friends and family. I'm sure the movie version will end with a big, full-cast dance number.

What elevates this from the standard romantic comedy is the central character, who is not Rosie. The central character is Don Tillman, a hyper-organized and methodical geneticist working at a university. He clearly has a condition something like high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome but doesn't acknowledge it to himself. The diagnosis is pretty clear to the reader and the characters in the book, but the story is told from his perspective. He's socially awkward because he can't read other people's non-verbal cues and their verbal subtleties. At an early age, he embraced his difference and set up his life in a highly organized way, reinforcing his oddness. But he does have endearing traits. He is brutally honest about situations (which causes problems but also helps him solve them) and he has befriended a few people, including an old lady named Daphne who lived upstairs and needed help when her husband moved into a nursing home. He and she developed a friendship and just before she died she told him that he'd make a good husband. He doesn't believe this but she insists. He reconsiders and begins the Wife Project, a highly organized and methodical attempt to find the perfect woman for himself. He develops a sixteen-page questionnaire and sends it out.

The idea is sort of ridiculous but he is sincere about it and has help from another professor and his wife. The other prof provides screening of the applicants and one day Rosie walks into Don's office. She's there for something else but is mistaken as a potential candidate and Don asks her out to a nice restaurant. The story goes on from there, with lots of ups and downs and many laugh out loud moments.

The book is as much a character study of Don as it is a romantic comedy. The potential romance is the catalyst that draws him out of his natural routine. His struggle with dating women (and  dealing with other people in general) is a problem we've all faced, though probably not to his extreme. He's so good natured and honest and interesting, readers naturally enjoy spending time with him. The other characters are also well developed but he is clearly the star. I look forward to more stories about him.

I only read this because of the recommendation of Julie at Happy Catholic and there's a great podcast about the book at A Good Story Is Hard to Find.

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