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Different and funny, but over-hyped
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.