I didn’t mean to read The Rosie Project in a day but I was feeling particularly awake on the train ride home so thought I’d read a page or two. By the time we got to Featherston an hour later I was totally hooked and about a quarter of the way through.
The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance. Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. Then a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire – a sixteen-page, scientifically researched document – to find the perfect partner.
Don the protagonist is clearly somewhere on the autism scale and I wanted to hate that as a ‘fashionable’ and marketable medical ploy. However, despite a few irks I was soon entirely engrossed in Don’s story, his way of speaking and seeing the world, and his quest to find a wife.
We’ve all known someone (usually single) who has a huge list of requirements for a potential partner and seeing Don’s questionnaire so blatantly laid out was both creepy and hilarious. He dispensed questionnaires with abandon – at parties, during speed dating and online – collecting hundreds of responses from women who were willing to lower the bar enough to answer to a guy with a 16-page questionnaire.
Although it sounds crass and demeaning here, the way the questionnaire was handled within the novel was well done and I particularly appreciated that Don’s objectification of women was picked up and slated by Rosie in a way that seemed to ring true of her character.
As Don continues on his quest for the perfect partner the book introduces a number of sub plots and characters who all keep the story alive and interesting. In addition to The Wife Project we work through The Father Project, mastering the art of cocktail making, how to have sex with another person and The Rosie Project.
Supporting characters like Gene and Claudia are both fantastically written characters that seemed entirely real in their actions and faults. Surprisingly, their open marriage is written about without moralising on the part of the author.
One character is revealed as gay without any particular bellyaching and every person is treated without any subtle author remarks or stereotyping of their particularly traits, which was whole-heartedly refreshing.
The book is funny too – really funny; I particularly liked Gene’s favourite joke, “how can you tell someone is a vegan?” “Give them five minutes and they’ll tell you.”
At one point during the text a character reminded us that they were in Melbourne, Australia, which is possibly the most striking part of The Rosie Project overall. This doesn’t read like an Australian novel – it reads like a well-written contemporary story that could be set in any city in the world.
This is a book for people who enjoy contemporary fiction but don’t usually read romance. Yes, it’s feel-good but this is no simple narrative with cardboard characters.
The Rosie Project is an entirely readable and engaging, smart modern-day romantic comedy. It’s smart; it’s well-written and has an incredibly satisfying ending that avoids the big Hollywood-style schmaltzy climax. Above all it’s incredibly enjoyable.
Four stars from me.
Thanks to Text Publishing for providing a review copy.
The Rosie Project
By Graeme Simsion
Published by Text Publishing