The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

“I don’t know about doing a sequel. I think you can retroactively damage a product by adding to it.” – Simon Pegg

I got very excited a few weeks ago. A girl at work has set up an office book group. I love a good book group but a book group of colleagues? I wondered if professionalism will get in the way of freedom of discussion. But I quickly put such thoughts aside and jumped in with two feet. The selected book was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, a book I had seen on the tables in book shops but about which I had otherwise heard little. Amazon Prime delivered it the next day allowing me to launch right into it.

The story revolves around Don Tilman, a professor in an Australian university who has come to the realisation that his life would be better off shared with a woman, and after a series of ad hoc dates with less than successful outcomes, determines that a more scientific approach to the situation is required. Thus begins the Wife Project wherein Don devises a complex questionnaire to whittle down the candidates to the ideal match, on paper at least. In the midst of all of this, Rosie breezes into Don’s life. Science falls out of the window, though not without Don desperately clinging to his methodology and hypotheses.

Don, I quickly realised, was not a man at ease in the world outside of academia, and even the more social aspects of that proved challenging. His misreading, or more often his lack of reading, social cues tend to end up with farcical consequences.  Most of the laughs in the book (and there are many) are at Don’s expense. It would be quite easy to attribute Don’s behaviour to that of someone having tendencies towards autism or Asperger’s. Not usually something to laugh about, but the book at least allows you to see the world through those eyes for a while.

The Rosie Project is compelling and I rapidly raced to the end, hoping that Don would find the woman that he was searching for. But the end of the book was already a launchpad for the sequel, The Rosie Effect.  To go in to detail on the sequel would spoil the first book, but there is a clue in the title! Again, I cantered through the second book at the same speed as the first book, enjoying it certainly, but there did begin to creep in a sort of exhaustion with the frenetic narrative and at times I wondered whether there was actually any character development or real progression to warrant the existence of the sequel. If there is ever a third book, I don’t think I would feel it necessary to re-engage with Don and his quirks.

While seeing the world from Don’s position, I was reminded of another book that I recently read about putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is dealing with the world in their own way. Wonder by R.J. Pallacio is about Auggie, an 8 year old boy like any other, apart from his congenital facial disfigurement.  Seeing the world through his eyes, and those around him, made me think about my own reaction when I see someone with a disability or a disfigurement, whether I look through them as though they are not there, do not exist, or whether I look and quickly look away, from politeness or horror or embarrassment, or from wanting to save their embarrassment, or whether I look, acknowledge and smile at them, whether that smile is taken as kindness or whether that is seen as pity.  I not sure myself what my glance would be intended to mean.

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