“But why, why, why can’t people just say what they mean?” – Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project
One part romance, one part comedy, The Rosie Project will forever have a place in my heart as my first book club* read.
It was the perfect initial choice: light and funny, yet also deep enough to inspire a little discussion.
*I recently joined not just one, but TWO book clubs. My life feels complete. How many book clubs is too many? Wouldn’t say no to a third.
Meet Don Tillman, an eccentric genetics professor with undiagnosed (and unconfirmed) Asperger’s Syndrome. Intelligent and pragmatic, Don has the mind of a genius yet he struggles in social situations. He takes everything literally and therefore finds most people a source of mind-boggling confusion.
Don is the embodiment of the phrase ‘creature of habit’. He lives his life according to a very strict, self-devised schedule for success. Everything he does is carefully calculated to help him reach his full physical and mental potential, from the amount of sleep he gets every night to the type of food he eats. He’s incredibly fit, smart and healthy, but not that great at small talk or spontaneous fun.
Despite the odd pang of loneliness and the fear of social embarrassment, Don seems pretty happy with his life. He’s just missing one thing: romance. Never one to sit idly over a problem, Don devises a plan. Welcome to the Wife Project.
Armed with a sixteen-page questionnaire and some rather striking hypocritical tendencies, Don sets out on his search for the perfect woman. He hopes to use the questionnaire as a type of screening test, to eliminate any ‘unsuitable matches’ in the early stages, rather than get halfway down the road of love and find out Miss Perfect is actually a sports-watching, smoking disappointment.
“A questionnaire! Such an obvious solution. A purpose-built, scientifically valid instrument incorporating current best practice to filter out the time wasters, the disorganised, the ice-cream discriminators, the visual-harassment complainers, the crystal gazers, the horoscope readers, the fashion obsessives, the religious fanatics, the vegans, the sports watchers, the creationists, the smokers, the scientifically illiterate, the homeopaths, leaving ideally, the perfect partner, or, realistically, a management shortlist of candidates.”
This is where things start to get a little predictable. Who walks into his life but a beautiful, eccentric, chain-smoking vegetarian? Enter Rosie. As Don is about to find out, romance hardly ever goes to plan.
This book made me laugh, a lot. Mostly at Don, but also at the ridiculousness of some social norms that he highlights through his inability to read between the lines. And then there is the fact the author likes to squeeze as much laugh potential out of an awkward situation as possible. I think the below quote sums up what I mean pretty well:
Don: “But I’m not good at understanding what other people want.”
Rosie: “Tell me something I don’t know,” said Rosie for no obvious reason.
I quickly searched my mind for an interesting fact.
“Ahhh… The testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex.”
Sometimes this humour was eye-rolling ridiculous, sometimes it was very clever & understated. All of the time, it was highly enjoyable. Speaking of reading between the lines, sometimes it’s nice to read a book for pure entertainment, without getting too caught up in the myriad possible meanings of every sentence.
I think you will enjoy The Rosie Project if you take it for what it is – a light and entertaining read. Or as the queen of chicklit herself, Marian Keyes, said: “funny and heartwarming, a gem of a book”.
This is a romance novel for those who do not like romance novels (thereby proving that everyone likes a nice love story every once in a while).
“Professor Tillman. Most of us here are not scientists, so you may need to be a little less technical.’ This sort of thing is incredibly annoying. People can tell you the supposed characteristics of a Gemini or a Taurus and will spend five days watching a cricket match, but cannot find the interest or the time to learn the basics of what they, as humans, are made up of.”
“It would be unreasonable to give you credit for being incredibly beautiful.”
“It seems hardly possible to analyse such a complex situation involving deceit and supposition of another person’s emotional response, and then prepare your own plausible lie, all while someone is waiting for you to reply to a question. Yet that is exactly what people expect you to be able to do.”