It’s a sweet novel about a sweet man who is a more independent, social and likable version of The Big Bang’s Sheldon Cooper. But there is still something slightly, how do you say it, weird, about Don Tillman. He has his day planned down to the minute, compulsively points out people’s errors and follies and takes his meals based on the Standardised Meal System.
He is also a highly self-aware individual who knows that he isn’t easy to like, has a small number of friends he can count on his first four fingers and has confined himself to being the one making social errors when out on a date.
But he also knows that if this were the animal kingdom, his above average intelligence, salary and physique would make him highly desirable to females. Now, if only the real world worked like that.
He thus comes up with the Wife Project comprising of a detailed questionnaire with multiple choice questions to find a suitable partner. But as with all stories featuring people with very specific demands — non-smoker, PhD or equivalent, punctual and meat eater — what he really ends up desiring, very involuntarily, is the curve ball hurled at him – a “barmaid” who smokes, is always late and is a vegetarian who will only eat sustainable seafood. Now, for someone who has their entire day chalked out for optimum efficiency, eats the same meal on the same day of every week, who counts their units of alcohol as carefully as they do their calories, this isn’t an ideal situation. But if our character isn’t about to spin out of control having voluntarily or involuntarily dived into situations that are alien to him, we wouldn’t have a story that was half as interesting, would we?
So we have here a book, that starts out nicely, gets to the mid-point very nicely and ends very nicely. Therein lies the problem. It’s nice. It’s sweet. It’s highly readable and Don is seriously likable. But that’s about it. The story doesn’t get any more interesting than that. Ok, so there’s that whole Father Project bit, where he’s helping Rosie find her biological father, that’s adding a bit of drama and entertainment. But even that doesn’t isn’t immersing enough to keep you at the edge of your seat.
‘Don, can I ask you something?’
‘Do you find me attractive?’
Gene told me the next day that I got it wrong. But he was not in a taxi, after an evening of total sensory overload, with the most beautiful woman in the world. I believed I did well. I detected the trick question. I wanted Rosie to like me, and I remembered her passionate statement about men treating women as objects. She was testing to see if I saw her as an object or a person. Obviously the correct answer was the latter.
‘I haven’t really noticed,’ I told the most beautiful woman in the world.
There’s no denying that Don is a great character. He’s everything a true romance novel hero isn’t, and that is a marvellous change to read. He has quirks that you will love and quotable quotes that you’ll enjoy memorising. But Rosie’s character is a little flat, predictable and lacking in colour. She has daddy issues, tries to come across as a rebel and feminist when she’s really a highly qualified doctorate candidate who just wants to be loved and accepted. Quite typical of most heroines written in that role, if you ask me.
The Rosie Project is a sweet book that makes for a nice read. I don’t regret the time I spent on it at all! It has its moments and it’s hilarious in parts. But did I want to read the sequel the minute I finished with the last page? Not really. In fact, I thought this book itself was quite drawn out with nowhere to go after the first half was complete. I recall looking at the progress bar on the Kindle and wondering, “Wait, only 49% in?” “Only 62%?” “What more is left to happen?”
But in its defense, it is pretty well written so you don’t find yourself forced through the second half even though you know, more or less, how it is going to pan out. So in that respect, it is worth the read. But am I going to bother the sequel? Highly unlikely.
Also published on The Caterpillar Cafe on March 9, 2015