Since I started by blog, I’ve done an annual Advent Book Calendar highlighting books I have enjoyed and authors I really like. This year I thought I’d do an Advent Book Calendar with a twist; for each day leading up to Christmas, I’m going to post a review of a book to which I’ve given only one star (Throw a book at this one) or two stars (Don’t put this book in your book bag). Though I would not recommend these books, others have disagreed with me. Each book, on Goodreads, has received a 3 or 4 Star average rating.
Review of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is another book I read only because it was chosen by my library book club. Fluff! It’s described as a romantic comedy and I have enough problems with that formulaic genre, but then the book goes further and has little romance and even less comedy.
Don Tillman is a 39-year-old geneticist with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s. He devises a plan to find himself a wife. While involved with this project, he meets Rosie who enlists his genetic expertise to help her identify her biological father. Of course, Rosie and Don develop an unlikely relationship.
Lovers of romantic comedy are obviously the ones writing the rave reviews. The book certainly has all the elements of the genre: the seemingly ill-suited couple who insist they have a just-friends relationship which inevitably develops into something more, the prevalence of chance and coincidence, the predictable plot, the comic set-pieces, the moments of less-than-profound epiphanies, and the love-conquers-all theme. And there’s a sequel which will undoubtedly continue to use the formula.
Some people rave about Don and how he is a unique character. Countless examples of Don can be found in popular culture. Don has been around in the guise of Shel(Don) Cooper on The Big Bang Theory since 2007. How about characters on Bones and Criminal Minds? And all of Don’s musings about love and logic are certainly reminiscent of Mr. Spock on Star Trek. In terms of books, what about The Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime?
But for me it is not just a lack of originality in character that is the problem; Don is not realistic as someone with an autism spectrum disorder. He possesses every attribute of an "Aspie"? Then, after decades of rigid behaviour, he is able to change? In a very short period of time he abandons his scheduling and learns to read facial expressions and social cues?! An autistic person is not someone with a “normal” personality trapped inside, a personality that can be released by the love of another.
The author seems to want people to realize that people’s differences should be appreciated and accepted; those who demonstrate “variations in human brain function” and do not fit “constructed social norms” (6) should not be ridiculed and shunned. Yet at the same time, the author expects readers to laugh at Don and his inability to function in social situations?! We are supposed to believe that just because Don is accustomed to ridicule and rejection, he doesn’t suffer when others laugh at him? Surely no reader believes Don is not capable of love so why would he/she believe he is not capable of feeling hurt? Why not show the ridiculousness of societal “norms”?
This book is the type which will appeal to readers who want pure escapism. I found it barely entertaining and certainly not memorable.