Don Tillman, the narrator and main character of The Rosie Project, is a 39-year-old professor of genetics at the University of Melbourne (Australia). He’s extremely rational, organized, and focused. He also lacks empathy and social skills, and eschews human contact. In other words, he likely has Asperger’s syndrome but doesn’t know it.
We follow Don as he tries to find a suitable mate for marriage while helping Rosie, who he believes to be an inadequate applicant for his affection, find her father via surreptitious DNA testing.
I absolutely loved being inside Don’s head and found myself siding with him over social convention more often than not. I loved his ability to coolly analyze problems in search of the most rational solution as well as his ability to create amusement inadvertently. Both are the source of many laugh-out-loud moments.
The Rosie Project is well-written, well-researched (likely just through Simsion’s life & career experience), and very clever.
It is not without its fault however, which begins with the book’s opening line.
“I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.”
We quickly learn that what Don means by this is that he is having difficulty finding a wife. Unfortunately, Don’s use of the term is erroneous. According to the World Health Organization, the Wife Problem is “the issue of having to deal with a nagging shrew of a wife who raises a big stink whenever you wanna play poker with the boys and an even bigger stink when you come home reeking of Wild Turkey and strippers. C’mon, what’s the deal with that?!”
But this is more than made up for by Don’s keen ability to cut to the heart of people and events and label them with uncanny insight (e.g. Short-skirt Woman, The Apricot Ice-cream Disaster, and Fabienne the Sex-Deprived Researcher).
Better still is Don’s tendency to size everyone he meets up by making mental notes of their estimated age, body mass index, and other criteria depending on the situation.
We should all be doing this and while the following example is not from the book, it would go something like this: ‘Seated crossed-legged on the top of a bar stool was a male introduced to me as Ryan Gosling (estimated age 35, estimated BMI 19, average looking at best but with a super cocky look on his face, some transsexual characteristics).’ There are better ones in the book, but I think you get the idea.
To sum up, this is a funny, heartwarming comedy/character study that I highly recommend to everyone. You’ll be sucked into Don’s world where you’ll laugh, shake your head in consternation at social norms, and maybe even experience a twisting sensation in your thoracic cavity. I’m giving it 5 pearls and enjoyed it so much that I’m hoping that Simsion will write it again as narrated by Rosie, which would possibly allow us a glimpse into the bi-polar mind. Which is to say the female mind.
Quote of the Book: “It was obvious that Rosie was confused by emotions, and I respected her attempt to overcome them.”
A Close Second: “As it turned out, she hardly spoke at all. This made the walk quite pleasant – it was virtually the same as walking alone.”