Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Rosie Project

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I guess I’m in the minority, here, as I didn’t love this book or find it fabulous and life-changing. I enjoyed it, it was ok, but it felt like reading a rom-com, with the standard events for the genre: couple meet “cute,” couple disagree about things and think they hate each other, couple eventually ‘discover’ they were made for each other and end up getting married. The End. The only thing setting this book apart from other stories like this is the narrator being on the Autism spectrum (probably high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.) Everything else was completely as expected, including the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Rosie.

But, I get ahead of myself.

The Rosie Project is the story of Don Tillman, a professor of genetics at a university in Australia, and his search for a wife. His Asperger’s Syndrome makes him a humorous narrator, as his quirks are on display in full force. He decides to apply logic to the problem of finding a wife, and creates a long questionnaire to weed out the undesirables (smokers, vegans, etc.) His best friend, Gene, a womanizing psychology professor, helps him find women to evaluate, and one day Rosie appears in Don’s office, telling him that Gene sent her. From the very first, Rosie is obviously unsuitable, according to the questionnaire, but Don decides to help her in her quest to find her biological father. Hijinks ensue.

I found the book mildly humorous, and the mystery of Rosie’s father was handled well. The story moved along at a good pace - I read the book in just two sittings. Nevertheless, I had issues with it, overall. As mentioned above, Rosie is a quintessential Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Nathan Rabin, who coined the phrase, defined a MPDG as "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” That is Rosie to a T. This book was ALL about Don learning to embrace life and its quirks, and not be so regimented. And that’s what Rosie does. She dresses non-traditionally, has tattoos and piercings, and is generally depicted as a “free spirit” who introduces Don to the fullness of life. I had trouble fully enjoying the book because of the shallowness of her character, and her blatant MPDG qualities.

The other issue I had was Don’s Autism/Asperger’s. As he is the narrator, we get first-hand experience of his thought processes and approach to life. I almost felt as if we (the ‘normal’ readers) were supposed to laugh at this poor sap who has his life scheduled out to the minute. “Ha, ha, ha, those crazy Aspies! Aren’t they funny?” I just felt uncomfortable the whole book, as if Don were someone to be ridiculed and pitied. This is in sharp contrast to the (also fictional) narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the non-fictional narrator of \Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. With neither of these books did I feel that the narrators were comic relief, as I did with The Rosie Project. (I should note that two of my book club members who listened to the audio version of the book did not feel that way toward Don, so maybe it was just my interpretation as a reader, versus a listener. Still, I didn’t feel that way with the two books I just mentioned, so I don't think I have a super-sensitivity to narrators on the Autism spectrum.) I would be curious to know the opinions of people on the spectrum to this book and narrator, to see if they felt he was the object of ridicule or not.

So, in summation, this was a light, mildly enjoyable read, but one with definite flaws. It would be a nice diversion for someone looking to be entertained, especially if they enjoy rom-coms. It hasn’t much else to offer.

No comments: