on 22 April 2014
Don Tillman is a genetics Professor in Melbourne, his life one that is dominated by routines and strict schedules and order; he knows that his brain works differently to most, social situations in particular are not his forte, however, the way he sees it he is governed by logic and reason as opposed to his emotions. Approaching his fortieth birthday, Don decides that he wants to get married; it being well documented that married men live longer and are happier. To this end he embarks on the wife project, for which he designs a specific questionnaire in order to efficiently select his ideal partner. Then Rosie enters his life, and all logic and reason swiftly goes out of the window!
The Rosie Project makes for a diverting and unusual read, mainly because it is told entirely from Don's perspective and his rather unique take on the world. Don as the central character is utterly delightful, and hard not to warm to despite all his oddities. In essence he could be Sheldon Cooper's (from the Big Bang Theory) twin; and he makes for a refreshing hero.
I actually probably preferred the first part of the story, as we get to know Don and his little routines, e.g. the very efficient standardised meal system, and as he devises his questionnaire to seek out the perfect wife; however, then Rosie enters the story and it starts to drift off in another direction. There is initially some confusion between the two characters, Don assuming Rosie to be an applicant, albeit a very unsuitable one, for the wife project, when in actual fact she is seeking his advice as a genetics expert to help track down her real father. This assumption being cleared, Don sets out helping Rosie gather DNA samples to find out who her real father is; this element of the plot actually then becoming quite a dominant one in the story, and I have to say that personally I felt it rather dragged out, Simsion rather going into too much detail over it all, and more that I particularly cared for or was invested in. Furthermore, I thought the actual resolution to the father project to be very weak.
Obviously as Rosie and Don spend time together on the father project, they start to develop a friendship; Rosie challenging quite a lot of Don's views and throwing him into situations he is unaccustomed to, but often finds himself enjoying as he loosens up and stops sticking so rigidly to all his routines. There are plenty of amusing incidents that follow to this effect, and you can easily see where the story is heading; however, personally I found Don's progress to becoming more socially adept and his willingness to alter his hitherto strict routines rather too quick, particularly as it is implied that he likely suffers from undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome. In real life such dramatic changes would be unlikely to occur in so short a time span, and as such the condition is perhaps trivialised in a way.
My other main criticism is that I did at times struggle to warm to Rosie; often she simply came across as too immature and angry, in particular regarding her issues with her father.
Overall an entertaining read, and certainly different to the usual in the romantic comedy genre, with some interesting food for thought and a very likable lead character. However, from all the glowing reviews I had probably been expecting more than I got; and as such did feel that the book may have been over-hyped a little.
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics. He narrates this story in which his main focus is to find a perfect wife.
It soon becomes apparent that Don is fairly well advanced on the aspergers scale - he struggles with social interaction, has to plan his life to the last minute, is not flexible and is well above average intelligence.
At first his thoughts are quite strange but quickly be becomes very endearing and I found myself chuckling at his analyses of his various projects. He thinks differently from most people which comes across in every thought that goes through his head.
It would be easy to ridicule him but this author manages to make Don funny without ever making him an object of fun.
Overall you get a book with a neat and tidy plot of which I think Don would approve.
Great to read something a bit different.
Don Tillman is an Associate Professor of Genetics with (probably) Asperger's Syndrome who has decided that, as he is nearing 40, he will solve "the wife problem" (ie. not being married) by creating a questionnaire that will ascertain, for him, the perfect wife and then marry her. That is until he meets Rosie, a grad student working part-time in a gay bar who's looking for her biological father, and slowly Don's "Wife Project" becomes "The Rosie Project" as he realises he's falling in love with her.
I say that Don probably has Aspergers because it's never explicitly stated but as he narrates the book in the first person, the reader is immediately aware that he sees the world differently than the rest of us. It's kind of like having Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory" talking to you - Don is a genius with no social skills who's unable to read facial expressions and has a highly regimented lifestyle and peculiar way of speaking.
Couple that with the opening scene where he gives a talk on Aspergers and it's highly suggested that he has it. Not knowing anyone with Aspergers, I can't tell whether he sounds convincingly like someone with it but what little I know of the condition suggests that his personality is unlikely to change as dramatically as Don's does throughout the book. It's almost like his meeting Rosie reverses the condition. I mean, he's unable to feel love - but he can? He's unable to read facial expressions or understand social conventions - but then he can?
Nevertheless I thought the first 200 pages of the book were charming. Don is a likeable guy whose eccentric lifestyle makes a change of pace to the usual rom-com formula and the different angle it gives to the genre made me interested in it even though romantic comedies aren't usually my thing. There were also some excellent scenes that stuck out memorably like Don and Rosie's first date, from using aikido on the waiters to altering time and having dinner on a whiteboard (not as surreal as it sounds but nice touches anyway), and Don and Rosie's moonlighting as cocktail waiters and Don using his remarkable memory (eidetic?) to take complex drink orders for dozens of people at a time. I read the first two-thirds of the book in a couple days, smiling a lot throughout. And then I got to the final third which took me over a week and ruined the book for me.
The first 200 pages had been unique to the rom-com genre and felt highly original which is why I responded so well to it - it wasn't going over the same ground countless other stories had gone over before. The final third is all about convention and it opens with a scene in New York. The story is set in Australia but because Don and Rosie are hell bent on finding Rosie's biological father, their search takes them to two possible fathers in NY. This 50 page section felt completely contrived and could've been cut from the book entirely.
This book was originally a screenplay and these scenes felt very cinematic and included so that film backers would have recognisable locations for their film to make it easier to sell, rather than serving the story. Yes, the finding Rosie's real dad storyline is in play but if you took those two people away from NY and cut it entirely, the book would've been snappier. As such it feels really contrived and dull, like the scene in the movie where the two romantic leads get to do a kind of montage sequence of things. It also constantly references other romantic comedy movies the entire time too, adding to the feeling that this is a homage to the genre and included because that's what's expected when you do something like this.
Then the final 70 or so pages are about Don winning Rosie back and it's done in such a conventionally rom-com way that I totally lost interest. Worse, Don's character didn't seem consistent in this part either (see the criticisms in the Aspergers section above).
I've used the label "romantic-comedy" throughout because that's what the marketing says it is but it's not. It's romantic, sure, but it's not funny. I didn't laugh once and didn't think Don's numerous social faux pas to be particularly funny either. Worse still are the scenes which are clumsily designed to be funny and feel very forced, like when Don is learning sexual positions from a book and uses a skeleton (he's at the university for this scene so it's not a Dahmer moment or anything) and the Dean walks in on him. It feels like the kind of scene in a sitcom where the canned laughter goes on and on as the camera switches from Don's face to the Dean's and back again while the audience begins to clap and laugh at the same time. It might as well be labelled "funny scene". And it's not.
Despite my criticisms, I was quite happy to give this book 3 stars - until I read the end. Now I know the ending shouldn't have more importance over any other aspect of the story, whatever the genre, but the ending to this book is especially bad. So Rosie at the very start when she's introduced to Don, tells him about her dad Phil, a man who raised her alone after her mum died when Rosie was 12, who's a person whom she doesn't particularly get along with (largely because of a minor quibble which she's unreasonably held against him for her entire life) - but no more so than any other person who doesn't get along with their mum or dad for whatever reason. Except she's convinced herself he can't possibly be her real dad and that her real dad must be out there somewhere. This is basically the motivation for everything Don and Rosie do in this entire book and right off, I thought "I bet it turns out Phil IS her real dad after all". Well... I won't give it away but you can kind of guess what happens in the end. And I really, really hated that. Don all but says what I was feeling in the second-to-final sentence of the book and I immediately dropped the book down another star.
This book definitely has some good moments and Don is a memorable and oftentimes delightful character, but the final third of the book really frustrated me. If the book had been more tightly edited with the NY sequence thrown out and had had a less predictable ending, I would be enthusiastically recommending this novel. As it is, it is a flawed debut novel that's well written but severely lacking in crucial parts of the story reducing it from a charmingly quirky romance story to yet another rom-com with no surprises and a sloppily rushed final act. Graeme Simsion can write and he might one day write a brilliant novel but sadly "The Rosie Project" is not that book.
on 25 September 2015
The DNA Chase
I completely misunderstood what this book was going to be about. I had assumed the reader would be taken on the journey with Aspergers-but-he-doesn’t-know-it Don Tillman as he searches for a wife via the internet and a scientifically sound questionnaire. I was looking forward to reading about some hilarious encounters with deeply unsuitable women (blingers, clingers, mingers, gold diggers and bunny boilers perhaps?).
But what happens? Right at the beginning, his friend and colleague, Gene, introduces him to Rosie. And immediately the questionnaire (the axis on which the book is purported to turn) is cast aside as Don turns his attentions to Rosie. Predictably, she’s totally unsuitable as potential wife material (she smokes, drinks and swears and hasn’t even completed a questionnaire) but she has a problem that Dan can help her with: she wants to find out who her biological father is and Don, the geneticist, devises crafty ways of eliciting DNA samples from a dozen or so men whom Rosie’s mother may (or may not) have slept with thirty years ago as a medical student.
At least half of the book is given over to the pursuit of DNA samples and the questionnaire - which could have provided a rich seam of meaty stories about unsuitable candidates - has been well and truly forgotten about and Rosie and Don realise that they like each other after all. Well, more than “like” but let’s leave it at that.
In short, I felt cheated. This book isn’t what it says on the cover. It’s not about a man’s quest to find a wife via a questionnaire. It’s about a man and a woman capering about all over the place trying to covertly obtain DNA samples.
The story is set in Australia - which I only knew after I’d finished the book and read reviews on Amazon.
Filming, apparently, is under way and no doubt it’s going to be the kind of rom-com Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller would take the lead roles in - if they were twenty years younger.
on 7 September 2015
Professor of genetics Don Tillman has a wife problem, he believes it is is purely a question of finding a solution, a logical solution and so begins his search for love, and a suitable partner.
“I've sequenced the questions for maximum speed of elimination,’ I explained. ‘I believe I can eliminate most women in less than forty seconds. Then you can choose the topic of discussion for the remaining time.’
‘But then it won’t matter,’ said Frances. ‘I’ll have been eliminated.’
‘Only as a potential partner. We may still be able to have an interesting discussion.’
‘But I’ll have been eliminated.’
I nodded. ‘Do you smoke?’
‘Occasionally,’ she said.
I put the questionnaire away. ‘Excellent.’ I was pleased that my question sequencing was working so well. We could have wasted time talking about ice-cream flavours and make-up only to find that she smoked. Needless to say, smoking was not negotiable. ‘No more questions. What would you like to discuss?”Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project
His total blindness of his own problem and the fact that he has resolved most problems in his life through logic and study are what makes this a very funny book, like the movie Big the innocence and honesty of the character makes the story shine with freshness and insight of the problems most of us face, but accept as normal everyday human relations.
“I have heard the word ‘stunning’ used to describe women, but this was the first time I had actually been stunned by one.” Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project
This is s beautiful comedy that has some lovely moments of humanity and understanding that will have you one minute laughing and the next feeling total empathy for Don’s everyday dilemmas, as we begin to experience the world through his eyes
“I haven’t changed my mind. That’s the point! I want to spend my life with you even though it’s totally irrational. And you have short earlobes. Socially and genetically there’s no reason for me to be attracted to you. The only logical conclusion is that I must be in love with you.”
― Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project
A very good companion to have on a day you are taking the train to work or on a long flight, just be careful you don't start laughing out loud or looking too sad in the company of strangers, you may have to explain the solution to the Wife Problem.
on 23 June 2013
Review: I didn't really know what this book was about. I saw it popping up all over twitter and in bookseller charts. I had a quick glance at the blurb and knew that I would have to read this. I'm very susceptible to people talking about books, I know I have to have them. I actually downloaded the audiobook so that I could get through it quicker, and from the first moments I was listening to it, I knew I had unearthed a truly funny Gem!
Professor Don Tillman is a fabulously funny character, and without even meaning to be! It begins with him giving a lecture on Aspergers to a group of Aspergic children and their parents, and it is quite clear to us as readers that, he himself is Aspergic. This had me laughing from the start. The other things he does throughout the book, show clear signs that he is on the autistic spectrum and yet he clearly doesn't know he is!
When Rosie comes into the story, she turns Don's world upside down, and the results of this are also hilarious. I love how understanding Rosie is of Don's little foibles and I think their interactions are very well written. Don's other colleagues at the university are not as understanding as she is, which is a shame, but also, fairly true to life!
The beginning of the story moves fairly slowly, and there is a lot of scientific jargon throughout, but this doesn't take away from the humour and the heart-warming moments that take place! I don't want to give too much away, but my highlight is definitely the road trip that Rosie and Don embark on towards the end of the novel-it's fabulously funny!
If you like The Big Bang theory, especial, Sheldon Cooper, you will love this novel, but I really do think there is something in here for most readers. It's a nice quick read and the humour makes it a nice lacy story, and yet you are not left wanting more. I really hope there will be a sequel as I would love to hear more from Don and indeed Rosie!
Before I got this book, I had no idea that this book had a main character who has Asperger's (hence the aspies rule!). I have taught children who we have been labelled as 'suffering ' from Asperger's syndrome. It is only after reading this story that I sat down and realised that I have never considered how/why it affects people the way it does....Don Tillman, the main character helped me to see that people that have Asperger's are just individuals who don't think or do things in the way that the majority of the population does. There is nothing wrong with them. Thank you Graeme Simsion for helping me to realise this very obvious fact!
Returning to the book, it is actually a superbly written story. It's a romance with intelligent comedy timing. I especially liked how Don would say exactly what he was thinking e.g. At one of his lectures, he points to a lady who has her hand raised to ask a question, and says 'yes, the fat lady at the back.'
Don has decided that he can find a wife (which he previously thought was impossible for him) via a questionnaire that he has devised. He goes about trying different ways of meeting women who he can then convince to complete the very comprehensive questionnaire.
As he begins this 'wife project' he also meets Rosie who does not tick any of his boxes on his questionnaire. He rules her completely as a possible candidate for a wife, but he agrees to help her find her real father, Don is a geneticist and aids her by testing DNA that they steal from possible suspects AKA as men that her deceased mother may have slept with at a medical school party..
I don't want to tell you more as I want everyone to enjoy this great book. If you like romance that is not too sickly sweet, want to learn something about the characteristics of Asperger's and meet a cast of interesting characters then I highly recommend this book.
Australian author, and script writer, Graeme Simsion's debut novel is an endearing and very funny tale of scientific experimentation and biological impulses that I would heartily recommend. Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who has decided it is time to look for a wife and we start the story with the 'Wife Project' on his mind as he prepares to deliver a lecture on Asperger's Syndrome for his friend Gene - we soon learn Gene is one of his few friends and that Don fails to recognise how closely his own behaviour relates to the young people with the syndrome in his audience. Don loves order, routine and organisation; what he doesn't like is people who are late, who smoke and drink too much but he is soon to be introduced to Rosie who does all of these things.
Most of this you can glean from the blurb but what you don't gain is a sense of how engaged you will become in Don's story and the 'laugh out loud' moments that you will enjoy as the 'Wife project', complete with 16 page questionnaire, becomes the Father project as Don starts to help Rosie discover her real father.
Over 36 shortish chapters the story unfolds with a small but interesting cast in a story with pace, humour and a light touch. Although the voice of Don dominates the story, Rosie is a well drawn and rounded character who contrasts with Don in her view of the world as she seeks to answer the question that her mother never got to answer.
This novel was originally written as a script for a screen play and the well crafted dialogue does help you to visualise the scenes in a filmic way that bring the story to life. I don't want to say much about the twists and turns of the story because I wouldn't want it to spoil your enjoyment of this tale but I was pleased that there were surprises and it doesn't all play out how you might expect with the 2 main story lines. I could see this being up there in my top 10 books of the year - loved it!!
As I got into The Rosie Project I recalled three other books. The first was The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay, which is Australian and funny, and happens to be one of the very first books I bought and read without parental guidance. Then, as Don Tillman, the hero of The Rosie Project (and what a hero!) researched the principal indicators of Asperger's Syndrome, I found myself matching them against my own behavioural characteristics, which brought to mind Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. Jerome hilariously reports that on consulting a medical dictionary he discovered he was suffering from every one of the diseases of which he read. Thirdly, as Don Tillman constructs his Wife Project, I remembered Vikram Seth's 1986 novel in verse, The Golden Gate, in which Janet helps John advertise his availability for romance, a novel idea back then. Finally, as Graeme Simsion's story took a complete hold, I realised I will in future be using The Rosie Project itself as a standard against which to compare other books; it is destined for classic status.
On page 14, I laughed out loud. For me, reading quietly and alone, that is really something. Pausing between chapters 6 and 7 (page 54) to mentally review the story so far, I laughed again. It was The Jacket Incident that brought that on.
Almost throughout, the story is very funny. But there is real pathos too. (Remember how Shakespeare's great tragedies always have clown scenes set against the heavy stuff?) And virtually all the players, even minor ones such as early drop-outs from The Wife Project, are believable people about whom we quickly come to care.
The setting is mostly in and around a university in Melbourne, Australia. As described by Graeme Simsion, that feels much the same as many another university town or city throughout the English-speaking world. But a trip to New York authentically brings out the uniqueness of that city. Graeme Simsion is clearly an I LOVE NYC person.
I got totally hooked and seriously considered cancelling my night's sleep to finish the book. I'm glad I didn't, though, as I would have become too tired to fully appreciate the quality writing and premier-league plot construction. Nevertheless, I finished the book - and wrote this review - all in two days.
It's the best new fiction I've read in almost two years - since Amor Towles' Rules of Civility.
A highly entertaining look at the problem of finding a wife when your brain isn't wired like the majority of the human race. And being a book group choice I then had the opportunity to go over all the most amusing parts for a second time :)
Don Tillman is a highly intelligent geneticist, but his personal life is less satisfactory. He exhibits many traits that we have come to recognise as typical of Asperger's Syndrome, though it is only towards the end of the book that it even occurs to him that these are the symptoms that he, himself, demonstrates. He has two close friends, fellow geneticist, Gene, and his wife, Claudia. Occasional attempts at meeting prospective partners have ended disastrously, so he decides to eliminate future failures by constructing a questionnaire, which becomes dubbed The Wife Project.
Rosie (of the title) is sent to Don by Gene, to settle a bet relating to genetics, but Don assumes she is a prospective candidate for The Wife Project. Their friendship is fraught with difficulties, but Don decides he is going to use his ability to test human DNA to determine who Rosie's father is and so their relationship develops in spite of the fact that he has long since decided that she is totally unsuitable as a future partner.
The author has managed a humorous series of misunderstandings and errors of judgement, without the book falling into the realm of farce. It was a pleasure to read and I would highly recommend it.