Wednesday 22 July 2020

#CBR12 Book 45: "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion

Page count: 304 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR12 Bingo: White Whale (on my TBR list since early 2014)

Don Tillman lives his life on a fairly rigid schedule. He eats the same things every week, he has set aside a certain amount of time for work, exercise, cleaning his flat and so forth, and any deviations that force him to change the schedule makes him annoyed. He doesn't socialise much, except for the occasional dinner with his best (and pretty much only) friend Gene and his wife Claudia. The few times he has been on dates, it has tended to be disastrous because the woman always turns out to drink too much, or smoke, or show up late or have some other absolutely unforgivable flaw. Yet Don would like a wife, as he is rather lonely. He creates a multi-page, detailed questionnaire, created specifically to rule out all the women with which he will clearly be incompatible. Gene helps him process the many responses he gets and promises to send some of the promising candidates that pass, to meet him.

When Rosie Jarman shows up at Don's office, he is baffled. Rosie quite clearly fits none of the criteria Don looks for in a life partner. She's messy. She smokes. She doesn't exercise regularly. She clearly enjoys way more alcohol than is advisable. Yet assuming that Gene sent her as one of the women who had "passed" the questionnaire, Don invites her to dinner at a fancy restaurant, but it has to be moved to his flat, as he refuses to wear the jacket stated in the restaurant dress code, has a physical altercation with one of the bouncers and they are forced to leave. Rosie seems to think it's all very amusing.

Despite Rosie not fitting any of Don's carefully selected criteria, he had a wonderful evening with her and can't stop thinking about her. Then he discovers that Gene sent her to talk to him about a genetics question (he's a DNA expert), not at all because she might be a suitable life mate for him. She is frankly appalled when she hears about the Wife Project survey, and wonders how any woman would be willing to complete such a thing. She is, however, looking for her biological father, and Don has the knowledge and tools available to help her. He's not even sure why he decides to offer to help her find her father, but it allows him to spend much more time in her company. As the search continues, and Rosie and Don keep having strange and wonderful adventures, trying to collect the necessary DNA samples they need, Don is forced to consider whether the scientific method might not always be the correct way to approach life.

This is one of those books that has been on my TBR list pretty much since it came out. I bought it as an e-book in 2014 and have almost started it a bunch of times, but for some reason, it just never happened. It wasn't even that I was worried I wasn't going to like it. It's a romance, after all (even though it is, unusually, written by a man). 

It's a sweet opposites attract stories, and while he's never diagnosed as such in the book, it's very clear that Don is neuro-atypical and that he has ASD (formerly known as Asperger's). I've seen a lot of comparisons to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, probably because he's the best pop culture example of someone neuro-diverse. I also liked this book tons more than The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, a historical romance that famously features a hero with ASD. Don is a much more likable, if somewhat initially inflexible and set in his ways, hero.

As the story progresses, it becomes very clear that Don is perfectly able to change his ways to accommodate others, he just needs longer to get used His friend Claudia is absolutely right when she says that he'd make someone a very good husband someday. He's extremely intelligent, he's very physically fit, he's a great cook, he's a loyal friend (even when said friend keeps behaving in a manner Don disapproves of). He has an excellent memory and gives thoughtful gifts. He just needs to learn that all relationships require compromise and some give and take.

Rosie is a great character, but she too needs to develop and grow and has quite a few unresolved issues because of her uncertain parentage. It's clear that she loves her stepfather and he her, but they are very different people and it's understandable that she wants to try to discover who her real dad is. 

My least favourite character in the book was Don's friend Gene, who has an absolutely amazing wife, but nevertheless has a project where he needs to sleep with women from as many countries in the world as possible. It's clear that while Claudia may have initially agreed to an open relationship, the openness is pretty one-sided (she does not seem to have other partners) and Gene keeps lying to his wife about where he's been and what he's been doing, which I found infuriating. Thankfully, he too improves over the course of the story.

Since this book came out in 2013, Simsion has written two sequels about Don and Rosie. I'm not sure I feel the need to read those, this works perfectly well as a self-contained story. 

Judging a book by its cover: Like many other of my books, this one has had a number of different covers over the years. There's a bright red one with a heart trail and a little cyclist, there is one with a lobster featuring prominently (I'm assuming this is because Don eats lobster regularly), but I really like this cheerful yellow cover with the main characters (Don with his trusty bike) and Rosie with her wild hair facing each other in colourful silhouettes.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

1 comment:

  1. I’ve yet to read the next two books but I did very like The Rosie Project.