Book Review

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster 2013
ISBN: 9781476729084
Genre: Contemporary Romance

 Book The Rosie Project a red cover with a silhouette of a man on a bicycle riding away in the cornerShort review: this book is adorable, it will make you smile and think, and you should read it if you like charming, funny, touching stories.

Longer review: I have a strange history with this novel. I first became aware of it from Billie Bloebaum, who told me back in August to go apply for a NetGalley copy because she knew I'd love it after my rage-review of Big Girl Panties:

I just finished ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion, which … addresses a lot of similar issues regarding pre-conceived notions and stereotypes and assumptions and snap judgments, but handles them really, really wonderfully. It’s very likely that you’ve already had this book recommended to you by many, many people since it’s been getting a lot of buzz and was apparently kind of a big deal in Australia. Read it, if you haven’t already. It’ll make you feel better. I promise.

Off I went to NetGalley to request a copy, and to set a calendar reminder because Oh my GOD this book doesn't come out until OCTOBER.  I'm sure the equivalent to the population of Norway and Australia both applied for an e-galley.

This is one of the few times I remember being impatient about a Net Galley request not being approved – which is rare for me – because I kept hearing about this book, and I couldn't get a copy. I wanted to read this book SO bad.

Sound familiar, anyone outside the US?

The Rosie Project was released in Australia in January 2013. It's being released here in the States after being an Australian bestseller, and after being translated into nearly 30 languages and optioned by Sony pictures. Australia, you can go ahead and savor the fact that you had this book for months before we got it. It's only fair. I'll wait here.


Ok now? No?

 

 

 

 


Done savoring? Yeah? Ok- wait you're not done? Alright.

 

 

 

 

 


Ok, everyone have a Tim Tam and a grin because you have earned them both.

I got my own copy at Dymock's in Melbourne, a gift from a lovely person, and carried the paperback with me all over Australia. 

Then, I met the author, Graeme Simsion, at the Brisbane Writers' Festival. I asked him to sign my copy (which he did, noting that I had the Australian version with “lifts” instead of “elevators” in the text).

Then he did a brief podcast interview with me, telling me some of the compliments the book had received. One of the compliments he heard most often was that people read it in one sitting.

He's right about that. It was on my 8 hour flight to JFK that I read the book in one sitting. If I hadn't been flying, I'd have been annoyed that I couldn't read it in one long session. I didn't even want to get up to use the restroom. I sat and read and read and read – it was glorious.

The Rosie Project is so charming, so funny, and so touching. If you like The Big Bang Theory, you'll probably like this book. If you like emotionally touching stories with humor and happy endings, you'll like it, too.

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics at a university who follows a very regimented schedule, has calculated every step in his life, and thinks he's reasonably happy though he is aware that he doesn't fit in and is very awkward and confusing to people. He decides that the best way to find a wife, as he's decided he would like to be married, is to create a survey that will identify or eliminate those who do or do not meet what he thinks are his specifications.

He meets the Rosie of the title (I wanted to call her “titular Rosie” but I just…could not) when she appears in his office doorway and he assumes she's been sent over by Gene as a potential candidate for The Wife Project. Don realizes very quickly that Rosie is absolutely the least suitable candidate, but he's fascinated by her, and begins making small changes in his life to keep her in his life, albeit tangentially. Rosie is looking for her biological father, and Don's work as a geneticist and his access to a lab can help her: they can collect samples from the likely candidates and test them against Rosie's DNA.

Don narrates the book – the entirety is told in the first person, and his narration is so interesting. He's confused by emotions, he's aware of his very high intellect and intelligence, and he's aware that he is different and doesn't easily fit in most areas of society. Rosie isn't the easiest person to fit into varying social situations either, but she rejects society and rules out of rebellion, not confusion. She's a bit prickly, is Rosie.

Don is the more fully developed of the two characters, though the reader learns a great deal about Rosie as her genetic mystery is unraveled. This makes sense, as the story is told from his point of view. His narration inspires a great deal of empathy, too – even when he's talking about his own perceived lack of capacity for empathy.

When he's asked by his best friend and boss, Gene, to give a lecture on Gene's behalf on Asperger's syndrome, Don does a ton of last minute research and then gives a credible and inspiring lecture to a hall full of children with Asperger's and their parents. Don does not recognize himself in the research nor in the descriptions he uses in his presentation – a theme that repeats itself in this book. Few people recognize themselves when it's truly important until it's nearly too late.

The Rosie Project is about recognizing yourself, and valuing who you are, while also recognizing your capability to change when necessary. Don is convinced he is not lovable, and not morosely so. He has arrived at the conclusion rationally, and without a great deal of emotion. One of the things Don learns is that he is lovable, he is worthy of friendships and happiness, though he might have to change his rules a bit to make that happen. He also has to learn to appreciate Rosie, and allow himself to be appreciated for who he is.

The Rosie Project made me laugh and sniffle, and I found myself grabbing a pen and marking passages in the book to share with you.

Here is Don talking about himself and other people in his dry, factual but insightful manner. Don has a surprising ability to make friends, though he doesn't appreciate that he does, and thinks he is largely without people in his life. In one early scene he is counting up his friends, of which there are four total. Two are deceased; one of the deceased, Daphne, was his former upstairs neighbor:


The second friend was Daphne, whose friendship period also overlapped with Gene and Claudia's. She moved into the apartment above mine after her husband entered a nursing home, as a result of dementia. Due to knee failure, exacerbated by obesity, she was unable to walk more than a few steps,but she was highly intelligent and I began to visit her regularly. She had no formal qualifications, having performed a traditional female homemaker role. I considered this to be an extreme waste of talent — particularly as her descendants did not return the care. She was curious about my work, and we initiated the Teach Daphne Genetics Project, which was fascinating for both of us.

 

This line in particular got to me:

I considered this to be an extreme waste of talent — particularly as her descendants did not return the care.

Such a short but emotionally powerful summary of Daphne's life: intelligent, talented, and not cared for as she should be, in Don's opinion, by the family she raised.


Later, Don is talking to Rosie, trying desperately not to commit a grievous social error and drive her away:


“Don, can I ask you something?”

“One question.”

“Do you find me attractive?”

Gene told me the next day that I got it wrong. But he was not in a taxi, after an evening of total sensory overload, with the most beautiful woman in the world. I wanted Rosie to like me, and I remembered her passionate statement about men treating women as objects. She was testing to see if I saw her as an object or as a person. Obviously the correct answer was the latter.

“I haven't really noticed,” I told the most beautiful woman in the world.

 

If you're looking for something a bit different in contemporary romance, with a unique perspective and a fascinating set of characters, you will like this book. I di., I liked it so, so much – and I've been waiting until today to tell you about it – well, not entirely successfully, as I've talked about it twice in the podcast. The Rosie Project is available today, and I hope you'll buy or borrow (or request) a copy.


The Rosie Project is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | iBooks | Your Public Library (US).

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Cate says:

    The Rosie Project is one of a handful of books that have hit the elusive 5 stars for me this year.I LOVED IT. Don is an Australian Sheldon Cooper (but sweeter), and his Aspergers, although never directly named or addressed, is beautifully handled.
      The supporting cast in this book are as brilliant as the main protagonists. I adored Gene, a charming, witty,utter bastard;& perhaps my only chip with this fab book was, not enough Claudia.
      It’s not a book to be read in public spaces,or in bed.Unless of course,you don’t mind the odd looks you’re going to get when you start laughing uncontrollably; or the nudge that I got for waking the other half up,as I was sniggering like Mutley(trying NOT to wake him up)
      I laughed & shed the odd tear whilst reading this fantastic book…..and then I went out and bought copies for friends birthdays. It’s an absolute joy to read…..and I’d love to see more of Don & Rosie if Mr Simison would care to oblige :)

  2. 2
    Kat says:

    We totally quoted the same excerpt (the last one)! This is one of those books I loved reading, but the more I think of it, the more questions I have about how books by men vs books by women are marketed, read and received.

    I absolutely agree that the writing is excellent. Don’s observations are so acute yet so subtle, like the excerpt you included about his neighbour, and these were my favourite parts of the book. I wasn’t sold on the romance, however. I found Rosie completely inaccessible as a character—I liked her, but I couldn’t understand what attracted her to Don.

    As a comparison, have you read Addiction by Toni Jordan—first person, heroine with OCD, romance as catalyst for change—also published by Text (who published Simsion’s book here)? Obviously, it’s not the same book, and maybe some won’t find her heroine as charming as Don, but I’ve been wondering how much of the TRP’s popularity is helped—or not hindered—by the fact that it features a male narrator.

  3. 3

    Ahh I put myself on a book buying ban until I finished my TBR pile and must not click buy instead of sample. Must. Not. Hit. Buy. I’m going to go watch the Tom Hiddleston—Cookie MOnster delayed gratification video and see if that helps. Then I’m getting the sample.

  4. 4
    Genghis Mom says:

    Ugh! I want to read this book! But, pay $11.99 for an ebook?! Hell no. Off to the library to make a request.

  5. 5
    Dot Salvagin says:

    I LOVED this book !!!  Great review.  I hope they don’t spoil it by making the movie.

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    It is very expensive, I agree. Please do request it at your library – I think this book will find a lot of readers in libraries. :)

  7. 7
    Jessica says:

    Yes go to the library, it has already been selected as a librarians favorite for this month and most locations should be getting their copies.  Also it’s excellent and utterly enjoyable

  8. 8

    Heading to the library to pick up my copy (requested as soon as i found out it was the book club pick last week) sometime this week.  Probably Thursday, since August is making a comeback tomorrow and I would have to walk there.

    I can’t wait to read this book, and as soon as I’m done with Thankless in Death, I’ll be starting it.

  9. 9
    Violet Bick says:

    @Kat: Thanks for the recommendation. While I was reading this post about The Rosie Project, I got to wondering about romances with female characters with Asberger’s (or OCD in the case of your recommendation).

    I haven’t done a search, so I’m just basing this on the popularity of books like The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (by Jennifer Ashley), all the recent historical romances with heroes with PTSD, and now The Rosie Project, but this post got me wondering about gender roles (e.g., image of woman as nuturer/healer) and how much easier (accepting?) it seems to have a hero rather than a heroine with a mental or learning disorder.

    Anyway, my library has The Rosie Project, so I’m off to request it. Yay!

  10. 10
    cleo says:

    This is the book club book, right?  I couldn’t find it at ARe.

  11. 11
    SB Sarah says:

    @Cleo: Yes it is, and when it’s in stock at ARe, I’ll post the entry with all the links. YAY!

  12. 12
    Darlynne says:

    Are there any current Kobo coupons that would help, because this book has fabulous written all over it.

  13. 13
    Darlynne says:

    Never mind. It doesn’t appear to be a title that can be discounted. Library, here I come.

  14. 14
    DonnaMarie says:

    Have to wait until the Linkedin libraries affiliated with mine go through their wait lists before I can reserve. So bummed. I’ve been checking back weekly for a while now hoping for a glitch in the system, or that the GBPL will get their own copy, but no luck. So, so bummed.

  15. 15
    cleo says:

    @SB Sarah Excellent – I was afraid I made that up (it’s been one of those weeks).  I’ll wait until it’s available at ARe (or maybe try my library)

  16. 16
    cleo says:

    @Violet Bick – I can think of two romances where the heroine has PTSD (and interestingly enough, in both of them the hero also has PTSD – not sure what that means).

    A Soldier’s Heart by Kathleen Korbel – I can’t say enough good things about this book.  It’s a 1990’s category with 2 Vietnam Vets – he was a marine, she was a nurse, she saved his life in Vietnam, he looks her up 20 some years later and they help each other heal – it’s a wonderful romance.  OOP but available used.

    All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz – also really good.  Both the h/h have PTSD, although it’s not as central to the plot as it is in A Soldier’s Heart.

    I think there’s a lot to unpack about why female leads in romances are less likely to have mental or learning disorders than male leads.  It reminds me of a couple good posts about flawed heroines and why women readers seem to have more trouble relating to “difficult” heroines than heroes.

    http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com/2013/07/heroine-week-day-2-flawed-heroines-and.html

    http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/why-are-we-so-hard-on-other-women/

  17. 17
    cleo says:

    @Violet Bick – it looks like my earlier comment is in moderation. Here’s the quick version. I know two books with a heroine w PTSD. In both the hero also has PTSD.

    A Soldier’s Heart by Kathleen Korbel.  A 90’s category w two 40 something Vietnam Vets. OOP but available used. Can’t say enough good things about this book.

    All Night Long by JAK. Also good, though the h/h’s PTSD is less central than in my other recommendation.

  18. 18
    moviemavengal says:

    When a book is so highly reviewed by you, I knew I had to read it right away. 

    I read it last night, nearly all in one sitting. 

    Yes, it really IS that good.  Sarah did not exaggerate.

    In the end notes, I learned the book was originally written as a screenplay, and I could totally see that.  It played like a movie in my mind, scene after wonderful scene.  I am beyond excited that Sony has picked up the option on this to make a movie and the author will write the screenplay. 

    I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

    @Sarah, thank you so much for telling us all about it!  This is why I love this site so much – you introduce me to such wonderful writers!

  19. 19
    moviemavengal says:

    While we’re waiting for The Rosie Project to be made into a movie, I’d like to recommend a similar film about a romance between a man with Asperger’s and his new neighbor:

    http://youtu.be/wnoNQa_qUm4

    Adam is a magical little film, starring Hugh Dancy (of the TV show Hannibal) and Rose Byrne.  It won a prize at Sundance, but never really hit it big in the theaters.  Definitely worth a rental.

  20. 20
    Lucy says:

    OMG, LOVED this book. Thanks for the recommendation.

  21. 21
    moviemavengal says:

    For those in the Chicago area:  Graeme Simsion is coming to Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL to talk about The Rosie Project Thursday night, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.

    http://andersonsbookshop.com/event/graeme-simsion

    Just got the event email from Anderson’s and I’m so excited he’s coming here all the way from Australia!

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