There have been a few books that I’ve read this year because of the hype that were attached to them. I really enjoyed Gone Girl and The Night Circus, and so I figured I’d take a run at reading one of the books that seems to be mentioned everywhere on Twitter and Facebook, and that has been prominently displayed at Chapters for months: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.
The Rosie Project is the story of Don Tillman, a professor in genetics at an Australian university who is likely suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, or at the very least, a really bad case of depression and OCD. Don is socially inept, uncomfortable stepping outside his daily routine, and, because of these factors, has few friends and an unsuccessful love-life. While trying to remedy his lack of a love life, Don develops the Wife Project, a statistical attempt at finding a woman to share his life with; that project, however, is side-lined when Don meets Rosie, and instead spends time trying to help Rosie figure out who her biological father is. As Rosie and Don spend time together, and find they enjoy each other, but Don’s social deficiencies make finding a middle ground hard to establish.
I have to say, I give Simsion’s kudos for going for it with this book; he committed in a big, bad way to giving the reader an authentic feel for Don as a character, as the dialogue and narration can be as painfully awkward to read as it is to interact with someone like Don in real-life. Because of Don’s intelligence, his social awkwardness, and his inability to read nuance in the people around him, the character is presented as speaking with grammatical correctness, being unable to distinguish between sincerity and sarcasm, and having no filter for his thoughts. We all know people like this to some extent, but Don reminds me of the character(s) from the Big Bang Theory, particularly Sheldon, and I don’t watch that show because of those character quirks, and because of the awkward feel to the dialogue. This book embraces those aspects.
In regards to plot, this book reads very much like a rom-com screen play, and in the author’s note in the back of the book, Simsion mentions that that was the original plan for the story. The plot relies on a lot of tropes (some acknowledged, some not), that we’ve all seen a million times in a Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock/Jennifer Aniston movie; fish-out-of-water, well-meaning friends, misunderstandings, self-discovery balanced against a new love….. it’s all very predictable and, at a certain point, pedantic.
Maybe because I went into this book blind, without any real knowledge about it, other than it was incredibly popular, I was expecting more that what was there. I found the writing style difficult to deal with, the main character annoying, the secondary characters underdeveloped, and the plot to be anything but unique.
So, final verdict? If you’re someone that feels they have to read the most popular book of the moment, then go for it. If you’re not that type of person, then I’d say skip it. Watch one of the millions of rom-coms that are out there, as this book is nothing more than a re-purposed screen-play that was likely rejected by the studios for a reason. That sounds harsh, I know, but I think I’m pretty disappointed as I don’t understand where the positive hype for The Rosie Project comes from. Maybe I’m over-reacting, but this is definitely a case of buyer beware for readers out there….