The Rosie Project

I have to preface this review with Mr Litlove’s favourite joke, culled from a collection sent to him over the internet one day entitled ‘jokes about engineers’. I know, I know, just bear with me.

A young engineer is walking down the road one day when he sees his friend, another engineer, riding towards him on a brand new bike. He is clearly very taken with it, doing wheelies and stunts and suchlike, and skids to a halt with a flourish before his friend.

‘Hey,’ says the first engineer. ‘Nice bike. Where did you get it?’

‘You’ll never believe what just happened to me,’ says his friend. ‘I was waiting at the bus stop when this woman on a bike rides up. She gets off the bike and flings it to the ground. Then she undresses and throws all her clothes on the ground too. And then she says “Take what you want!” ‘

‘Yeah, good choice,’ says the engineer. ‘The clothes may not have fit.’

the rosie projectI mention this as the best way to show why The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion hit a particularly vibrant chord with me. Perhaps the quiet beauty of this delightful book is that we all know a Don Tillmann. Some of us are friends with Don Tillmans, some of us work with Don Tillmanns, heck, some of us are even married to relatives of Don Tillmann. We all of us know how endearing and how irritating they can be, but it took Graeme Simsion to find the perfect voice and narrative vehicle for this subset of humankind.

Professor Don Tillman is a good-looking 39-year-old geneticist who has decided he is in need of a wife. The only problem is that for some inexplicable reason, he has tremendous bother with the opposite sex whenever he comes into meaningful contact with them. They are unfocused in discussion, irrational in their choices and often arrive late. In fact, the whole concept of dating seems absurd to Don, and his research into commercial matchmaking does not impress him. At a social event for singles, he is astounded to note how the others ‘engaged in small talk – an extraordinary waste of time when a major life decision was at stake.’ And when he arrives at a posh restaurant, he doesn’t understand why his Gore-Tex jacket doesn’t fit the ‘jackets only’ rule propounded by the hotel employee: ‘the high-technology garment that had protected me in rain and snowstorms was being irrationally, unfairly and obstructively contrasted with the official’s essentially decorative woolen equivalent.’ Poor Don; it’s a mixed up crazy world they make him live in.

And so he decides to put together a questionnaire that will cut back on the dreadful wastage of time and energy that dating entails and find him a suitable candidate for marriage. When Rosie unexpectedly walks into his room at the university – sent there by his friend and womaniser down the corridor, Gene, for a scientific enquiry – Don mistakes her for a dating candidate. Not for long, of course, as Rosie is quite obviously unsuitable in every way. But she does turn out to have a problem that engages him. Rosie doesn’t know who her father is, but she does know he came from her mother’s class of medical students. With a geneticist’s dream problem to solve, how could Don fail to become involved in Rosie’s life? Before he knows what’s happening his beloved routine is in pieces, his regular weekday menu is thrown out of whack and he’s using university equipment for private purposes. Whatever happened to the rules?

Essentially, this book is a delight. If life seems cold and grey lately, and it feels like forever since a story made you laugh, go and get hold of a copy. Mr Litlove, who would not normally read a romance if I held a gun to his head (he would point out I couldn’t shoot it), practically pounced on it after watching me chortle my way through it, and loved it too. I think what makes the book so endearing is that it never treats Asperger’s like a condition. Don is simply Don, and I would bet good money that at least one part of his life will be familiar to you. When Don is driven (fast) by Rosie for the first time in a convertible with rock music blaring, he comments: ‘Discordant sound, wind, risk of death – I tried to assume the mental state that I used at the dentist.’ And I thought, crikey, that’s my life. So in short, it’s just wonderful, go read it. Even Don would have to agree that it’s a worthwhile use of your time.



50 thoughts on “The Rosie Project

  1. This sounds like one to pass on to he who hates unhappy endings, and I know what you mean about those kind of jokes but that particular one is very funny. Thank you for sharing out with us.

    • Heh, I thought of Sheldon Cooper when I started reading the book. You can actually read it inside your head using his voice with very satisfying results! 🙂

  2. I found this book delightful and enjoyed it completely! But I never got around to writing a review, as is often the case with me, and now, no need, because yours is a delightful match for the book!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed it! Wasn’t it wonderful? Not that I’d say no to hearing your review of it, or any detail you’d like to pass on! 🙂

  3. This sounds rather lovely. I didn’t think it would be funny. I agree, when you take away the label and just look at the behaviour, most of us can, at times recognize ourselves in it.

    • I thought that was the best bit, really, There’s part of Don in everyone, and once you realise that, the label seems excessive, somehow. It was very amusing.

  4. I could definitely use a delight of a book–you have convinced me (you would have anyway, but the story sounds like great fun). I am in line for it even as I type. Did Mr Litlove get a good chuckle out of it too?

    • Mr Litlove thought it was hilarious! I have to say that he often laughed at different bits to me, but there is a LOT you can laugh at. I would definitely recommend it as a life-enhancing read. Do let me know what you make of it!

  5. I am a physicist and yes of course one finds a few people at this end of the spectrum (though actually I have met more engineers like Sheldon). I must admit that “small talk” interests me little, but I would have had thoughts much more along the lines of “fun to be with sexy woman” in the fast convertible. Ah well, just shows how shallow I really am under that surface veneer of CERN physics god.

    PS I don’t care!!

  6. I need to read this! It sounds funny and smart and perfect reading for summer. Thanks, Litlove! Glad to hear your husband enjoyed it too. Maybe mine will be enticed as well….

    • Read it and then a) let me know what you think and b) let me know if you passed it on… I thought it was just charming and definitely a book to lift the spirits. Would love to know what you think of it!

  7. I loved this novel. Quite the most delightful story I’ve read this year. I did wonder in retrospect about the slightly contrived plot. Without the “father project” the whole Rosie project wouldn’t exist. But I can overlook that because Don is such a wonderfully idiosyncratic character. Can’t wait to see who they get to play Don and Rosie in the (inevitable) movie.

    • I’m so glad you loved it too! Yes, I was playing that ‘guess who they’ll cast’ game. I thought it was fascinating in the afterword to find out it had existed AS a movie script for the first four years of its existence before the author had rewritten it as a novel. You can sort of see that when you look for it.

  8. I am, as we used to say when we were children, hiding my eyes from his this review because I’ve just begun THE ROSIE PROJECT … will come back later when I’ve read it.

      • I’ve only got 30 or so pages to go and I really don’t want to finish … it’s been such a ride. I realised last night – perhaps you say this in your review but I’m still hiding my eyes so I don’t know – but I realised that nothing external is described (Melbourne, New York) by Don, nor is the way Rosie looks, except in reference to a study! Brilliant.

      • Finished and wish I hadn’t. I loved it just as you did and I laughed so much and I didn’t want it to end. Don’s clear analytical summaries of muddled life were hilarious (and serious) and it’s so rare to find a novel that makes me laugh. And yes there’s some Don in me and in many people I know.

        Dovie Thomason, a Lakota storyteller, once told me that when she was young her elders said that if she wanted to become a storyteller the first thing she must do was choose whether she’d tell through laughter or through tears. It’s a wonderful question. I tell through tears (which doesn’t negate laughter) but Simsion has told through laughter (without ever belittling the brilliant Don) and it’s a rare gift.

      • Oh I am so delighted you loved it as I did – and it IS a wonderful question as to whether writers tell through laughter or tears. Both have their merits, but I am also a complete sucker for a book that can make me laugh. And like you, I admire humour that is based on love, sympathy and generosity and I feel uncomfortable with humour based on anger or spite. The former has so much life and spirit in it – quite transformative.

  9. Soooooo, okay, this sounds amazing in one way, but in another way, I’m worried that it’ll be too much of that thing where a free-spirited woman draws a closed-off man out of his shell by exposing him to her Wild Carefree Lifestyle. Those stories annoy the hell out of me because I truly have no desire to ride in a convertible (I have quite long hair! it would only end in a mess!), and I don’t think being romantically coerced to ride in one would mean that I was Living Life to the Fullest at Last. You know?

    • I can perfectly understand why you would feel that way. In the book, it really isn’t so black and white, so it’s probably my description that’s amiss here. Both characters have issues, and both make the other do things (and not do things) they don’t want to. And incidentally, I would never get in a convertible for exactly the same reason, so you have my complete sympathy. Still, there are a million books out there waiting for your attention, and you can’t read ’em all, right?

  10. Spring has suddenly sprung off somewhere else and a novel like that sounds just the antidote to all this grey cold weather. I like the sound of Don. And I am still giggling at the comment from Dark Puss, CERN physics god, above.

    • What IS that Dark Puss like??? I am pretty sure this would give you a giggle, dear Helen. And an antidote to grey, cold spring weather is a vital necessity (sometimes toast and jam can do it, too).

  11. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed this one. I loved it because it is the first book I’ve read that treats Aspergers in a positive way. I hope this post has persuaded a few more people to give it a try.

    • Yes, I’ll bet it is! I loved the portrayal of Don because it felt like it wasn’t just a gimmick, if you know what I mean. He was simply being himself – and he also realised what unexpected flexibility he had (which is something every single one of us forgets). For me, it did more for redeeming the romance genre, which is something I hardly ever read!

  12. First of all, to major in the minors, I love your opening joke.

    Secondly, I work with Asperger’s kids all the time, and they are absolutely delightful. Quirky enough to seem normal when everyone else around them is weird, or at least that’s how they often appear to me.

    Have owned this book for months, now it’s time to open it.

    • Oh I do think you’ll enjoy it, particularly when you’ve been working with some delightful Asperger’s children. I’d love to know what you think of it!

      One of these days I will tell another of Mr Litlove’s jokes – I am using them sparingly!

  13. I loved this book and have given it to friends ranging in age from 43 to 81; they all enjoyed it. I knew I was going to like it when I read the gore tex jacket scene. Don and Rosie won my heart early in the book.
    When (not if) they make a movie, I long to see the cocktail making scene which made me laugh till I cried.


    • You’ve got something there when you talk about Don and Rosie winning your heart. They really do that, don’t they? You can’t help but cheer them on. The cocktail scene was amazing – makes that lame Tom Cruise movie seem even lamer! 🙂

  14. You forgot one reason to celebrate the beauty of this book, namely the fact that some of us are Don Tillman. OK maybe the gender is wrong and perhaps we aren’t quite that far along the Asperger’s continuum, but you just ask The Bears if they have ever met anyone like him and they will tell you they live with someone who just fits the bill 🙂

    • Ho, I can see I will have to have a quiet word in a few fuzzy ears – I should think they have some entertaining stories to tell! In fact, I was astounded by how much I identified with Don myself… apart from the fact that I think I am pretty emotionally literate. All the other parts were surprisingly recognisable, though!

  15. Well yeah, to do a riff on what Alex and elaine say, I thought of Sheldon Cooper too, and then of my daughter, who has some of Sheldon’s quirks and is sometimes very logical about things that other people see as romantic. She doesn’t have autism or Asberger’s, at least not so it’s ever affected anything that matters much, but it’s so endearing sometimes to see those things that remind us of her, and occasionally to be able to see the world through the eyes of a person who is different.

    • We are big fans of Sheldon Cooper in this household! And I found I identified with a lot of what Don says, and I certainly don’t have Asperger’s either. It is lovely to come across an unexpected portrait of one’s offspring, though. You say it just right.

  16. Pingback: Best Books of 2014 | Tales from the Reading Room

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