Greame Simsion’s The Rosie Project tells the story of Don Tillman, a University Professor with Asperger’s Syndrome who talks a lot to others with Asperger’s but doesn’t realise he has it. From Don’s perspective, we learn about his friends (of whom there are few), his dates (of which there have been many), and his latest project (The Wife Project)
“The Wife Project” involves an intrusive questionnaire, and Don hopes the project will result in his eventual marriage by assisting him in excluding any incompatible partners before they bother with the dating. Predictably, the love interest in this story fails the questionnaire in every respect, so the moral is essentially that love works in mysterious ways.
Set in my place of residence (Melbourne, Australia), The Rosie Project was a refreshing read in terms of place, with lots of familiar locations and references, not something I am used to as a reader. I appreciated this element and it has in some ways inspired me to read more local authors.
The character-with-Asperger’s-Syndrome thing is wonderful when done well (i.e. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and Simsion does achieve this in some respect, particularly with regard to Don’s perceptions of his friends. Don looks up to his best friend and fellow University professor, Gene, as a kind of social-behaviour role model, but as the story develops it becomes clearer to the reader that perhaps he should not.
Where The Rosie Project falls short is that the Asperger’s element is frequently used as a trope for laughs and to create hilarious situations. We rarely learn how Don is feeling about anything and he approaches everything with a methodical, analytical mind as he does his genetics work. This, to me, indicates a lack of research or concern for the subject matter on Simsion’s part, and all we really learn about Aspies is through the list of facts Don shares with the Aspie kids during one of his lectures.
Though lacking in substance or grit, The Rosie Project is an easy read, a quirky romance and Don is a charming enough (though sometimes annoying) protagonist. Though this is the first novel of a series, The Rosie Project ends satisfactorily and I do not feel any desire at this stage to read The Rosie Effect.