I’ve had The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion sitting on my nightstand since June after I went for a walk around my neighborhood and suddenly found myself in a bookstore with an armful of books. I finally decided to read it after seeing it on a list entitled “13 Books to Read After A Man Called Ove”, alongside of some of my all time favorite books such as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Although I haven’t read A Man Called Ove yet, I fell in love Backman’s second novel Britt-Marie Was Here earlier this summer and therefore, had very high hopes for The Rosie Project. Unfortunately, I was very unimpressed with this novel. Below is the Goodreads synopsis followed by my review!
Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.
Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper
The main character Don is so quirky and lovable however, I found the way in which Simsion portrayed him to be overwhelmingly insensitive. It is very apparent early on in the novel that Don suffers from an autism spectrum disorder and as a result of this, struggles to interact with others in social situations. With this type of protagonist at the forefront, Simsion had an incredible opportunity to create a story that had unconditional love at its core, yet instead this was muddied by the stereotypical portrayal of Don’s ASD. Specifically, I was extremely frustrated by Don’s “friends” Gene and Claudia who seem to do more laughing at him and trying to change who he is as a person than actually accepting him and helping him to navigate the social norms of this world. Furthermore, I found the insinuation that Don “couldn’t feel love” as a result of this autism spectrum disorder to be completely inappropriate.
Although I had very high hopes for this novel based on the other novels it was compared to, I was very disappointed. Personally, I don’t think The Rosie Project belongs in the same league as anything written by Frederik Backman or Rachel Joyce. Even though Don and Rosie are both very interesting characters, the caricature of autism spectrum disorders in combination with the misguided help of unlikable supporting characters was enough to leave me very underwhelmed and unwilling to give the sequel The Rosie Effect a chance.
I apologize that my review is on the shorter side. I hoped that letting the book sink in for a few days would allow me to be able to speak about both positive and negative aspects of this book however, with time, my distaste for this book has only grown. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts (positive or negative) about The Rosie Project! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
2.5 out of 5 stars