The Rosie Project follows Melbourne University professor Don Tillman as he tries to find a worthy candidate for his ‘Wife Project’ whilst combating the social difficulties which arise from his undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. The book is essentially a Romantic Comedy featuring many of the clichés familiar within the genre, but it differentiates itself with its intriguing protagonist and likeable supporting characters. Author Graeme Simsion does an excellent job at showing how Don experiences emotion differently to those around him and allowing the reader to do what the characters in the book struggle to, relate to him.
“I fail to see why heightened sensitivity to obscure cues about ice-cream flavours should be a prerequisite for being someone’s partner. It seems reasonable to assume that some women do not require this.” – p. 6
Early on in the story Don goes on a date with a PhD student and part-time bartender named Rosie. Rosie is an outgoing character whose free-living lifestyle is the antithesis of the heavily regimented and routine-driven mode of living Don implements. Watching this lifestyle fall by the wayside as Don finds himself spending more and more time with Rosie is one of the highlights of The Rosie Project. Instead of falling into the manic pixie dream girl trope prevalent in many similar narratives, Rosie is an independent character who develops alongside Don rather than being used as a dull plot device to explain all of Don’s newfound character developments.
“Gene sent me the world’s most incompatible woman. A maid. Late, vegetarian, disorganised, irrational, unhealthy, smoker ¬–smoker!–psychological problems, can’t cook, mathematically incompetent, unnatural hair colour. I presume he was making a joke” – p. 71
Interspersed with the excellent gradual development of the book’s main characters are hilarious sequences where Don’s social incompetence and amazing logical memory shines through. His hijinks included a complete deconstruction of the speed dating process and pulling apart the bar of a golf club in order to create the exotic cocktails he had memorised the night before.
The plot at its core feels a bit generic and as such, there is very little tension which arises from the conflicts within the book. The Rosie Project instead focuses on making its characters the constant highlight of each page and succeeds exceptionally at doing so. Simsion’s interpretation of Asperger’s Syndrome never feel offensive or overly gimmicky, instead the book is a funny and often touching journey of self-discovery, tolerance and love.