The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
Another story where the main character has Asperger’s Syndrome – this time, however the protagonist Don Tillman is a middle-aged man in a successful career (he’s a geneticist) who’s lived with his condition for many years (though he’s not actually aware he has Asperger’s) and is used to being viewed as unusual. At the beginning of the story, Don has decided to try and find a suitable partner – which involves a very detailed questionnaire with very narrow margins for error (i.e. rejection). In the meantime, however, Don meets a young woman named Rosie and, well, boy meets girl, boy tries to help girl find her biological father, boy can’t help but be drawn to girl even though he keeps reminding himself that by his criteria, she’s in no way suitable as a girlfriend.
This book (which began life as a screenplay) is a romantic comedy done in just about all the right ways. As the summary above might suggest, many of the plot elements are quite familiar in some ways, and there are some cliché moments dotted here and there. But these days, when pretty much every story has already been told, originality comes from a fresh perspective, and The Rosie Project definitely has one of those.
A big factor, of course, is the unique nature of Don, who manages to be an very likeable narrator. As with Mockingbird, there’s plenty that’s recognisable to anyone with experience of Asperger’s: Don’s life is ruled by logic, rules, and strict timetables (he starts the story by analysing all his options when his friend Gene asks him to handle a lecture, which conflicts with his schedule to clean his bathroom). He has trouble understanding the feelings of other people, and having survived for so long just as he is, he doesn’t make much of an effort to do so; when conducting his “Wife Project”, he doesn’t think a lot about compromise. However, despite his attempts to approach all things in life rationally, there are definite cracks in the armour; Don mentions having suffered from depression in earlier life, and he naturally becomes increasingly confused regarding his relationship with Rosie. Since Rosie has her own issues, they ultimately end up helping each other, not always directly.
The first person narration is often funny, with Don’s unique voice, behaviour and view of the world (for example, failing to recognise that there are certain things it’s unwise to practice in your office at work – but I won’t spoil that), and also very engaging; I certainly felt for Don whenever he was down and wanted everything to work out for him. Despite some clichés, the story has its less predictable moments; there was one part in particular where I sighed and thought I knew exactly what was coming, only for the situation to play out in quite a different way. It’s certainly not a simple love story; it’s realistically and scintillatingly complex, and it’s good watching everyone develop throughout.
One little thing: while there is plenty of viable science in the book, I’m not sure paternity tests are quite as quick and simple in real life as portrayed here (Don doesn’t give much detail on how the tests themselves work).
The Rosie Project is very highly recommended, and I’d love to see it made into a film someday. Rating: 4.5/5.
Back to writing, I woke up this morning and had a go at Morning Pages – just scribbling anything in my big notebook, to try to clear the mind and stimulate creativity; this was brought up in yesterday’s course session, and I’d already read about it in a magazine. It was actually a fun exercise, so I’m going to keep trying for a few days.