by Graeme Simsion
Selecting the Novel
Recently, I applied for a Science Master’s course in Cognitive Science, which suggested a list of books to familiarise ourselves with. The Rosie Project was the first on the fiction list, and it was described as a funny book about a high-functioning Asperger-Syndrome scientist. As I’ve recently been diagnosed with AS myself, I was immediately interested and read the book in two days – a personal record.
Don Tillman is a 39-year-old associate professor in Genetics. He is academically successful; however, this success is not paralleled in his love life where he had never had a second date. His lack of empathy and poor social skills often put him in odd situations and conversations. His life is scheduled to the minute and plans his meals on a standardised weekly routine. Rationality is the basis of everything he does, including social relationships. During a conversation, it strikes him that he should find his life partner through a rational process, and thus embarked on The Wife Project to find a female life partner.
Don is an incredibly unique character. Through our socially conventional rules, the reader may understand whenever he says or does something out of line, enabling us to justify the reactions of other characters. However, what would seem so peculiar from a third-person, now becomes rationally understandable through his perspective. Everything is precise and thought carefully. What dominant society may label as odd or weird may have a firm basis in logical thinking. There is undoubtedly a difference between Don and most of the other characters, but this does not mean that he is flawed or that others are perfect. Don is just different and remains human behind his quirks. Like anyone else, he has strengths, such as high intelligence and incredible memory, to make up and work on his weaknesses.
Story-wise, one would expect someone with a strict routine to not embark on an adventure. Alas, after meeting Rosie, he starts breaking rules (including his extremely tightly planned schedule). A few minutes after meeting Rosie, he believes she is unsuitable to be his life partner. Despite these differences, he is compelled to help her find who her biological father is, as he is an expert in genetics. Rosie’s friendship brings in chaos and disorder, as Don engages in more spontaneous activities.
Even as the story is interesting, the main highlight of the book remains to be Don’s fascinating mind and his social relationships. I rate this book an easy 5* star rating from me. From the moment I picked it up, I could not put it down. This is Graeme Simsion’s first novel and has become a New York Times Bestseller. Don’s story continues in The Rosie Effect, which I hope to read soon. Although my personal experience may have augmented my interest and love for The Rosie Project, I firmly believe that this work can be enjoyed by a relatively wide audience. I suggest reading the first couple of chapters through Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’, which should get you interested enough to get your own copy.