A while back I wrote about the book rut I was in after failing to finish a number of books in a row and having difficulty finding something that filled the reading void. In the comments section I had a few recommendations, with three from Nic, her picks from book club last year. One of those was the Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
“But I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’
‘Tell me something I don’t know,’ said Rosie for no obvious reason.
I quickly searched my mind for an interesting fact.
‘Ahhh…The testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex.”
Now this will never be classed as high brow literature, but the Rosie Project is good for the soul. It was one of the most enjoyable, uplifting books I have read in a long, long time. I wanted to read it all day – it took me less than a week, with several 1am reading sessions thrown in.
The star of the Rosie Project, and a character that I feel I know on a very personal level, was Don Tillman, a professor of genetics. His extreme social awkwardness and OCD tendencies probably put him of the Autism spectrum somewhere, but he seems to have his life all sorted out into a minute by minute schedule and standardised weekly meal plan. That is until Rosie enters his life and causes mayhem to ensue. Don had decided he would like to share both his life and his genetics with another human being and sets about finding a life partner with a detailed and extensive questionnaire dubbed the Wife Project. As none of the 200+ women surveyed meet Don’s strict criteria he begins spending time with Rosie – who is so clearly unsuitable he wonders why friend and keeper of survey data sends her his way – but there is something about Rosie that Don can’t put her out of his mind. What follows is hilarious, often cringe-worthy, but also courageous and deeply endearing.
According to the author, this was a book whipped up quickly, and you can kind of see that in the writing. It’s nothing stunning, more like the way you might casually chat to someone, but that was also kind of refreshing. It wasn’t trying to be anything other than a fun read with some interesting characters.
My one reservation about The Rosie Project is, perhaps, what it says about people with Asperger’s. There are a lot of stereotypes here, Don has just about every ‘classic’ characteristic that it seems a little contrite. The one aspect regarding Asperger’s that I did really enjoy is Don’s presentation to parents about Asperger’s – ironically as he’s giving the speech he doesn’t recognise his own similarities to those he is discussing. Two parts of this presentation stayed with me. Firstly he poses a question, an awkwardly inappropriate question, to the audience. There is total silence, until the kids with Asperger’s sitting at the front start shouting out all sorts of answers – equally awkward answers? Don states that the only people in the room capable of answering his question with any form of originality were ‘the Apsies up the front.’ After conducting the necessary research for the presentation and then giving it, Don also decides the following about Asperger’s….
“I formed a provisional conclusion that most of these were simply variations in human brain function that had been inappropriately medicalised because they did not fit social norms – constructed social norms – that reflected the most common human configuration rather than the full range.”
I thought that was a really refreshing way to see the world.
What can I say, it’s a great book and if you need to lift the spirits a bit I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than this book, a hot cup of tea and a bikkie.
Now I must put those other two recommendations by Nic on hold at the library, her record of picking good books is 100% so far.