For months I have been looking at The Rosie Project on the shelf of the bookshop, but have always found another book to pick up and read instead. I judged it by the cover that I wasn’t a huge fan of and I didn’t want to read it because it had received too much praise (yeah I’m a snob). But last Friday I finally took the plunge and bought it. I suppose the fact that it took me less than a week to read it (I finished it on Wednesday night) says a lot – it really is worth all the praise.
Professor Don Tillman is a brilliant geneticist with tenure at one of the best universities in Australia. He also has no dress sense, no emotion, no social skills, few friends and what appears to be an undiagnosed case of Aspergers. He adheres strictly to his schedules, going so far as to cook the same meals every week and in the world that he comes directly into contact with, he has everything he needs. Except for someone to share his life with. So with the help of just about the only two friends he has, he comes up with The Wife Project – a guaranteed way for him to find the most suitable partner. He devises a questionnaire for any potential candidates to complete in order to weed out those who were incompatible – he needs someone punctual, intellectually stimulating and logical. He attends speed dating and singles mixers and has mixed results with the women he meets at these functions but he perseveres in any case. Then one day, Rosie walks into his office apparently in order to apply for The Wife Project. What follows is a series of quite hilarious and at times cringeworthy events (including Don navigating his way through a sex position book with a skeleton) as Don uses his skills as a geneticist to help Rose find her real father.
The most enjoyable aspect of this book for me, was the wonderful first person narrative by the main protagonist, Professor Tillman. If Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory was to ever narrate a book, then The Rosie Project would be it. Professor Tillman’s inability to pick up on sarcasm and his inept social skills are very reminiscent of Dr. Cooper, but where I find Cooper to be purposely nasty at times, that is not the case for Don. He is aware of his tendency to frequently say the wrong thing and seems to do his best at limiting the damage of his words, particularly as his character develops through the book. It’s hard to find a character these days that you immediately fall in love with and want to come out on top. I’v found that many main characters recently always have some critical flaw or do something terrible that makes you second guess your affection for them. For me the opposite was true for Professor Tillman. His flaws (if that’s what they really are), are what endears him to the reader and what makes the feelings for him grow as the book goes on. He is a very interesting character and one the most original I’ve read in a long time. I wasn’t such a huge fan of Rosie, I can’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it was because she just held on to things from the past for too long and allowed them to affect her life. I understand that things happen that shape who you are, but when you let those things affect your day to day life it really is time to let go. But then I suppose if she didn’t have this issue, she would be just about perfect, which is not what the author was going for. The only other two characters who make a regular appearance, Gene and Claudia, are an interesting backdrop to Don’s search for a wife and the perfect relationship. That’s all I’ll say about them without giving anything away.
There isn’t much that I didn’t enjoy about this book. I did find the overall outcome a little bit predictable, but the road to the ending was so potholed with surprises and funny events that it’s easy to forget that you suspect what’s going to happen. The lack of a cast of thousands was great, as I didn’t have to focus too much on who was doing what and the writing itself was just brilliant. It was easy to read, the storyline was interesting and entertaining, but not so lighthearted that you wouldn’t believe it’s real. I really enjoy reading Graeme Simsion’s words and within days of me finishing this little gem, I discovered there’s a sequel coming (he finished writing it last night in fact). Needless to say, I am very. Very. Excited.
RATING – 8 out of 10.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – If you read and enjoyed The Silver Linings Playbook you’ll probably enjoy this too. The Rosie Project is somewhat lighter in tone, so it may appeal even to those who didn’t enjoy the former.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER – You can not go past Don. From the opening pages I found myself wanting him to get everything he needed and deserved. He’s hard to not become attached to.
FAVOURITE QUOTE – “‘Professor Tillman. Most of us here are not scientists, so you may need to be a little less technical.’ This sort of thing is incredibly annoying. People can tell you the supposed characteristics of of a Gemini or a Taurus and will spend five days watching a cricket match, but cannot find the interest of the time to learn the basics of what they, as humans, are made up of.”