the rosie project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion landed on my radar after many rave reviews across the book blogs in the last year, but in general I’m not much attracted to romantic comedies. When I saw that Katie at Words for Worms is making it one of her Fellowship of the Worms features, then the ebook version of this one came up for just a couple bucks online, and “romantic comedy” was a genre for the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge, AND the KC Library’s 2014 Adult Winter Reading program theme is humor, I thought I had to give it a try. From Goodreads:

Narrator Don Tillman 39, Melbourne genetics prof and Gregory Peck lookalike, sets a 16-page questionnaire The Wife Project to find a non-smoker, non-drinker ideal match. But Rosie and her Father Projectsupersede. The spontaneous always-late smoker-drinker wants to find her biological father. She resets his clock, throws off his schedule, and turns his life topsy-turvy.

Welp, turns out I was right about myself and romantic comedy is just not really my thing. The Rosie Project is a cute, quick read, and I enjoyed a few chuckles here and there, but overall I thought it was a bit formulaic and predictable. With the few chuckles came as many (or more) groans. I was uncomfortable with how Don seems to not be aware he has Asperger’s (or is on the autism spectrum). I found that really strange and just way too unlikely to fully suspend my disbelief. Don is 39 years old, intelligent, educated (in genetic science, no less!), seems to care about his health, has seen therapists, has researched and given lectures on Asperger’s… really? His own mental health disorder (autism or otherwise) has gone undiagnosed? The other thing that bothered me is that Don was described as being “quirky,” “wired differently,” “an expert at being laughed at.” I don’t know. I guess this kind of glib characterization of complex mental health disorders stuck in my craw.

The rest of the characters were pretty one-dimensional to me. Gene and Claudia were okay, but the portrayal of academics was sadly clichéd. Rosie, Don’s love interest, was predictably his polar opposite and ridiculously shallow to boot. I didn’t like her much. hover-over spoiler here. I have to admit I became bored around 60% in, and probably would have given up if not for the positive reviews all over the place and the challenges/discussions involved. The more I’m thinking about the book for this post, though, the less positive I feel about it 😦 I wonder if I would have liked this more if Don had been diagnosed, and having an autism disorder would have been a real part of the story rather than “Oh he’s just unusual and idosyncratic!” There was huge potential here that sadly went by the wayside.

I understand why The Rosie Project is a big hit, though—turning the typical romantic comedy on its head by featuring a male protagonist rather than a female one, the whole quest to discover Rosie’s biological father was fairly compelling, and it’s ultimately an unchallenging, feel-good novel. A fluffy rom-com film adaptation is inevitable, no doubt. Although I’m definitely in the minority on my feelings about The Rosie Project, I’m glad I read it to get out of my comfort zone for the Eclectic Reader Challenge and I look forward to discussing it more with the Fellowship of the Worms soon!

The Rosie Project is my romantic comedy for the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge, and marks 1 of 12 completed on the list.

Read from January 24 to 30, 2014.

11 thoughts on “the rosie project

    • Well, I do think that love can be funny and silly, certainly! But I personally found The Rosie Project to be neither romantic nor entirely comedic… yet there it is categorized that way on Goodreads and whatnot. Fit the purposes for my challenges, at least.

  1. I absolutely see what you’re saying about Don. Was he actually unaware that he had Aspbergers? That wasn’t really explained well. I guess I saw the view of mental illness/ autism a little bit differently than you did… I kind of saw it as Don embracing and owning his limitations… Then again, if he were really doing that, he might not have been so keen to change for Rosie? I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it; I think I had Rosie colored glasses on while reading it. Glad to have you join in! 🙂

    • Ha! “Rosie-colored glasses” that’s a good one!

      Huh, yeah I guess he could have been embracing his limitations, like you said. I think, for Don as an academic, as a researcher, a man of science, a man with such an incredible capacity to learn and for details, that he would have known and named Asperger’s aloud as the reason why he is how he is. That would have created a whole new aspect to the story, in my opinion, for the better!

      Like, what if someone has say epilepsy, for (possibly exaggerated) example. You wouldn’t know it looking at them. But then whoopsie! once in a while that person has their “quirky” body-shaking fits! Um, no. That’s not them being quirky, that’s them experiencing a symptom of their brain disorder.

      I just don’t think having a mental health disorder is something to be embarrassed or ashamed of, or shrugged off, or treated so flippantly. I felt like Simsion treated Don’s behavior this way, and he didn’t have to. It could have been a part of the story and would have made it better, more 3D, in my opinion! 🙂

  2. I’m sorry you didn’t like this more. It is an archetypal romantic comedy and if that’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. I loved it. I did find it shocking that he wasn’t more aware of his Aspergers tendencies, but i guess it had to be that way for the story to work.

    • Yeah, it’s okay. I just think it’s not the genre for me, so much. No issue with those who like it, though! I am glad I gave it a read to get out of my comfort zone a bit. I agree, if Don had known he had Asperger’s, it would have been a completely different story. I do think that Simsion could have made it work though, still even as a romantic comedy. Oh well! I’m glad too that an Australian book has gotten so much press around the globe too, that’s always great to discover writers/books from around the world 🙂

  3. This one has been all over the place lately but I didn’t know very much about (other than people saying a character (probably Don?) reminds them of someone from The Big Bang Theory–which I don’t watch). It’s funny because I love romantic comedies on the big screen but don’t tend to like them as well in book format. Maybe it’s because when I’m reading I don’t want to spend so much time on something predictable?

    • Yeah I had never even heard of The Big Bang Theory before seeing reviews for The Rosie Project and it confused me! Like, the origin of the entire universe forming? I didn’t get it. Now I see that it’s a sitcom and I’m not really much of a TV watcher to begin with. And I agree—romantic comedies as movies are only 1.5 hours of commitment! 😉

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