Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

It’s hard to believe that The Rosie Project was Graeme Simsion’s debut novel. Shortly after Text Publishing released it, in 2013, it won both the ABIA Book Of The Year award and their General Fiction Book Of The Year award. International sales have topped 3.5 million copies. A couple of years ago, when I started putting together my reading list for this blog, it was everywhere! It hardly seems fair that a debut novelist has that much success that quickly, eh?

The main character is a genetics professor, Don Tillman. He’s never had much “luck” with women, which will come as no surprise when I tell you that his proposed solution to that problem is to create a questionnaire to assess the suitability of each “potential mate”.

Tillman doesn’t fit in particularly well anywhere, really – there’s a lot of very heavy-handed hints that he has undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome. That in and of itself would be fine, but there’s something about his character that makes me feel… well, icky. Simsion pushes the socially-awkward-adult-male-nerd angle very hard, to the point where it started to evoke for me a salivating, entitled, MRA/incel keyboard-hero fucknuckle. Tillman seems to believe that he is an “ideal mate” for any woman, given his intelligence, physical health, financial success, and social status. I mean, doesn’t that sound just a little bit entitled and misogynistic? Plus, he says stuff like this:

“… but I immediately recognised Julie, the convenor, from Gene’s description: ‘blonde with big tits’. In fact, her breasts were probably no more than one and a half standard deviations from the mean size for her body weight, and hardly a remarkable identifying feature…” – page 7

I got used to it after a while. In fact, I even came to appreciate (a little) how Simsion managed to communicate to the reader a more objective perspective on Tillman’s beahviour without the character being consciously aware of it, which is quite tricky to do when the book is narrated in the first-person. But I still couldn’t help but wish his portrayal of Tillman’s symptoms had been written more carefully. Based on that alone, I knew that The Rosie Project could never be one of my favourites, or a Recommended read here on Keeping Up With The Penguins.

Anyway, this socially-awkward guy meets a fun-loving girl with Daddy issues (Rosie, natch), and she spectacularly fails his questionnaire. Yet (steel yourselves!) he finds himself drawn to her. He winds up helping this “unsuitable” bartender hunt down her biological father. Is Rosie a Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Well, kinda. I think she gets afforded more depth than MPDGs normally do, with the Daddy issues and all, but her character doesn’t actually “develop” all that much. Her entire presence in The Rosie Project is pretty much predicated on (1) finding her father, and (2) letting Don love her.

The real upside of the story is that it ends up inverting the much-maligned Grease storyline: the man is the one who ends up changing to win the girl, instead of the other way around. That’s something, at least!

I hope I haven’t put you off The Rosie Project completely, because plenty of other people love it and highly recommend it, so maybe you should take my garbage opinion with a grain of salt. Bill Gates included The Rosie Project on his list of “Six Books I’d Recommend”, and it’s hard to argue with one of the world’s most brilliant minds, eh? (And you can check out more surprising book recommendations from brilliant minds here, if you’re curious.)

Simsion pumped out a sequel pretty quickly, with The Rosie Effect being published in 2014. A sequel to the sequel, The Rosie Result, will be released any minute now. And a film adaptation of The Rosie Project is also in the works, but it’s hit a few roadblocks. The script is written, apparently, but Jennifer Lawrence (who was slated to play Rosie) pulled out, and directors have been playing pass-the-parcel with it ever since. I think it would translate particularly well to the big screen, so fingers crossed it finds a home eventually.

The Rosie Project is another book that you can burn through pretty quickly (a la Still Alice or The Book Thief), but I didn’t love it. I seem to be pretty alone in that opinion, though, so the only way to work out whether I’m right or wrong is to give it a go yourself… 😉

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Rosie Project:

  • “Good argument, perfect development!
    This is a good book and I Was Entertainmented by the first person describing his life perceptions.” – elianasantos
  • “Absolutely love these socks. They fit beautifully and stay odor free for a long time.” – Magster
  • “I had the good fortune to discuss this book with someone who actually has Asberger’s. They said it was quite accurate except for where it needed to serve the plot.” – Amazon Customer
  • “Big Bang Theory wannabe” – Amazon Customer
  • “If your interested in a pregnancy b ook, then this is your book. No interest to me, sadly it went on a bit.” – Melissa
  • “Not again.” – Mark walker
  • “Story interesting and writing poor.” – Seattle Native

8 Comments

  1. I had heard mixed things about this book from a few sources. The fact that Rosie’s character does not develop might also be a problem for me, The plot does sound original though. I might give it a try at some point.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      January 23, 2019 at 8:21 AM

      It did a couple of interesting things to subvert expectations – as I said, it totally turned the Grease story on its head – but you’re right, it’s “mixed”, really. I’d be interested to hear what you think, though – and it’s not a real laborious read, I’d imagine you’d chew through it quite quickly Brian 🙂

  2. Great review! I tried to read this book once and couldn’t get into it so never finished it. Admittedly I didn’t try very hard and probably should have given it another go. But I’m pretty sure this is one publishing phenomenon that has passed me by. So don’t feel too bad about not loving it. Do you think you would read the other books in the series? Or are you done?

    • ShereeKUWTP

      January 23, 2019 at 1:33 PM

      Look, if I was in a holiday house or a bunker or somewhere without access to a complete library and I saw the sequel(s) on the bookshelf, I’d happily pick them up and give them a read. As it stands, though, they wouldn’t be my first choice. Glad I’m not the only one who was a bit nonplussed 😉 x

  3. Blimey I have never heard of this until now, it actually sounds one of those rare things, a book worth reading. I may add that to the list then

    • ShereeKUWTP

      January 24, 2019 at 2:02 PM

      Hey!!! I knew I’d find one that would pique your interest eventually!! Would love to hear what you think of it if you manage to squeeze it in between all your technical manuals 😉👍🏼

  4. I started reading it once, but didn’t finish, so let it slide off my radar. Maybe one reason was that neither Don nor Rosie struck me as characters with many surprises to pull out of the bag, although having not finished it, I may be wrong. I think Rosie was a bit of a manic pixie dream girl, albeit one with a mouth on her 😀

    • ShereeKUWTP

      January 28, 2019 at 11:49 AM

      It was kind of like the story called for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but Simsion wanted to avoid the trope, so gave her daddy issues and some profanity. I don’t think you’re missing out on much if you don’t go back to it Paula, though a couple of his other books sound interesting, so I’m not giving up on Simsion completely. 🙂

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