The Rosie Project
(#1 Don Tillman)
by Graeme Simsion
Genre: contemporary, romance, comedy,
Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.
Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.
Review Rant – SPOILERS!
I thought this book would be super funny and enjoyable and boy was I in for a rude awakening. I’m not sparing you anything in this review so be prepared for spoilers.
It is a novelization of a romantic comedy and it show particularly in the latter part of the story where the author just goes with the flow and doesn’t care about making events and characterisation even slightly more believable. You’ve stuck so far, no? The clichés multiply by page count, I kid you not. Still, lots of people enjoyed it and I must say I liked the first half – it was decent. The latter part was driving me mad; one idiotic event after another eroded my goodwill until it was gone completely and my eye rolls could have done some serious damage.
I liked Don Tillman until he suddenly underwent a drastic (and a little unbelievable) personality change, but I absolutely hated Rosie. Which kind of ruined my enjoyment of the story – I just wished Don finished with her and moved on to someone else. For a psychology doctoral candidate she’s surprisingly moronic regarding her relationship with her father and what damage unfounded accusations can do in someone’s life (the twist with her paternity was so transparent I called it the minute it came up). She’s a bitch, behaving like a petulant child in a number of scenes, but I’ve come to expect that of ‘romantic comedy’ types. Speaking of types – why are so many women nowadays portrayed like bitches? Like it is something good, edgy, even desirable? I find it ugly and repulsive, and Rosie is the poster candidate of this trend. She’s rebelling because of reasons. Ugh.
Rosie also tries to change Don’s behaviour or just uses sarcasm to put him down (he doesn’t always notice, bless his heart). It was so off-putting precisely because she knows he doesn’t get it. That’s bullying and we’re supposed to laugh at the ensuing emotional chaos in Don when she just waltzes into his life ans demands he change this or that. People react differently to disruptions in their lives and those on the autism spectrum (which Don most certainly is) sometimes need more structure to function than other people – attacking that and forcing numerous changes on the person is a form of abuse. And she’s supposed to know this shit as a psychologist! WTF?!
How could his friend Claudia (also a psychologist) understand that but the oh-so-great Rosie does not? Well, if she stopped obsessing over her own imaginary problems with her dad, maybe she’d actually listen to Don or open a book or two. He was willing to adapt to and learn socially appropriate behaviour – a gradual easing into new waters would be fine for him, not the way she just bulldozed him at times. *sigh* You form a romantic bond with someone because you like them as they are – they are not a project! But never mind, it is futile to expect actual research and nuanced portrayals in romantic comedies.
A large part of the novel is dedicated to Rosie and her moronic deductions. She made my opinion of her worse the more we learn about her. She decided her father (who raised her alone after the death of her mother) wasn’t her father because her mum said something idiotic to this effect. As a doctor she had to know that you can’t determine paternity of a child based on eye colour – even Don tells this to Rosie to no effect. But the real issue for Rosie is that her dad didn’t take her to Disneyworld when she was 10 and she had boasted about the promise to everyone at school. The emotional trauma made her hate her dad. *headdesk* Let’s just forget that her father made this promise at her mother’s funeral and that he was in physical rehabilitation for 8 months after that – the car accident that killed his wife almost killed him as well. Let’s forget that he saved Rosie’s life at that time, too. Nooo, the care he shows her every day afterwards doesn’t count. He didn’t keep that one promise and he didn’t magically see inside her head and decipher the silent wish to go to Disneyworld – what a bad parent! She must have a biological parent (one who supposedly had a one night stand with her mother, what and endorsement!) whom she can like and look up to. WHAT?
I thought Don would bolt in the other direction at that point – he values logic and proof above presumptions and emotional responses. No luck – he just has a hunch she is wrong and steals some DNA off her father. I believe he illegally stole DNA from around 50 people at that point, going through the entire graduate class of Rosie’s mother, even travelling with the moronic woman to New York to steal some more from two men on the long list. It just hurt my brain to read about it when one sample from her father would have prevented this. You always start with the family to make sure further effort is even necessary. Not in this case or we wouldn’t have a book to read. But yes, the collection of DNA is supposed to be funny; I just found it stupid. The book is also kind of heavy on alcohol drinking and Don gets progressively more shit-face drunk on a regular basis in the book. So clearly the relationship with Rosie wasn’t a good influence for him. I guess Don needed liquid comfort for doing all kinds of stupid things, even jeopardising his academic career. Ah, love…. *note the sarcasm*
Claudia notices some of this as well and is cautioning Don about Rosie at one point. What a relief! I just wish she got that through Don’s thick skull. I would rather read about this woman than any other character. She’s got a shitty husband (attempting to sleep with women from all the countries in the world and having an actual map of his conquests on a wall!) who is Don’s friend and colleague. I hated the character because he was just awful most of the time. He’s another cliché man only concentrating on chasing skirts and taking advantage of Don’s wife-questionnaire to meet new women. I do wonder how much knowledge he actually imparted in the classroom when sex was always on his mind. But yes, Claudia pointed out to Don that he actually does know how to love (something Rosie threw in his face one time because he doesn’t emotionally connect to characters in romantic movies – I mean, WTF? The man bought flowers for a sick neighbour for a year and visited her in the nursing home every day! How is that not proof he forms deep emotional bonds with people? He actually gives a damn about real people in his life, unlike Rosie.)
The number of issues I have with the book keeps multiplying and making me itch to strike off another star on this rating. Sheesh – be consistent or go home. This book is a mess.
So yeah – not many characters to root for, so I was just glad I liked Don even a little though his character changes turned him into a wimp and a sap. I was ready to throw the book at a wall when that happened and the number of these moments only increased. I was so glad the story was over quickly once the romantic pair returned to Australia and the titular Rosie project was initiated. I started to hate the word ‘project’ – we’ve got a rather misguided Wife project, the illegal Father project, and a Rosie project. That’s two too many. And why isn’t the story simply titled Rosie’s Father Project? The book talks about it for the most part!