Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Rosie Project is a "romantic comedy" (I guess) about a genetics professor trying to find a life partner. He's clearly somewhere on the autistic spectrum and reading the story from his (quite) unfeeling point of view is interesting, though it didn't always work.

I wasn't very impressed with this book; for me, it couldn't deliver what it (and the critics) promised. Here are some of my main qualms with The Rosie Project:

Right at the beginning, Don's supposedly best friend Gene has asked him to deliver a lecture that he was supposed to give himself. Fine.
The lecture is on a topic Don knows nothing about (Asperger's syndrome). Ok, weird, but he's very intelligent, so he can probably cope (at least he didn't complain).
Gene also neglects to mention what kind of lecture is required or whom it's for. This leads to a near-catastrophe when Don launches into a genetics (because that's what he's a professor of) focussed lecture on Asperger's in front of parents with kids affected by this illness. Why would Gene, as a friend, not warn Don who would be his audience? And why would an always deliberate, plan-based individual like Don not ask for this information in advance?
The same question, about Gene being a friend, also applies to Don's shock when he learns that these lectures never start on time. A warning would have been nice...

The time it takes to test the first blood sample against Rosie's cheek swap was way too quick. Even considering that he prepared the blood sample before the written part of their conversation occurs, even with that "very quick" new equipment... It looks like only a few minutes, and that's just not possible.
And, by the way, for someone who is so much into science and has lots of high quality science discussions, Don is incredibly reluctant to mention anything scientific in his account of these events. Neither about how the equipment works, nor what he actually does or what his group/institute is working on. We only have that information about Gene.

Upon their first arrival at the lab, Don takes two beers for himself and Rosie from the lab fridge. Later, he even goes from his office to the lab to get one from that fridge. I don't know about Australia, but in Germany you don't usually keep beer in a lab fridge. We have social rooms and kitchens for that, and knowing what's also in a lab fridge really makes you think twice about keeping food or drink in there. Plus, it's of course absolutely forbidden. And, seriously, in the same room with that new, high-tech and probably expensive machine?? Why would they place it in a former tea-room, anyway?

The book is written in first person, from Don's point of view. There's a ball scene which starts with him not being able to apply the theoretic dancing skills he learned in ten days to actual music and a live partner. He blames this on having not trained with actual music. Soon after that disaster, he dances with someone else - perfectly. A few pages on, he admits that he could have done better, but failed on purpose because he didn't like his partner. What kind of first person POV is that??

Last but not least, Don changes his appearance and his behaviour for a woman who doesn't quite match with him (she's a smoker, for God's sake!). He gives up almost everything that kept him grounded, turns his whole life around (at age 40) - for whom? The woman he apparently (for the more emotional reader) fell in love with on first sight, with no rationality behind it. It's so dumb it made me realise I shouldn't read any "romantic comedy" any more.
Also, imagine the gender roles were switched - feminists would be all over this!

Overall, The Rosie Project neither entertained me nor did it make me laugh (although I did recognise some scenes that were supposedly funny, just not for me). The only light in all this mess was the preview of the next book, where Don apparently starts regretting how he changed - at least partly. I'm not sure I should dare to read that, though...

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