Book Reviews

Graeme Simsion
Simon & Schuster

You can buy The Rosie Project on Amazon here.

 

Gene and Claudia tried for a while to assist me with the Wife Problem. Unfortunately, their approach was based on the traditional dating paradigm, which I had previously abandoned on the basis that the probability of success did not justify the effort and negative experiences. I am thirty-nine years old, tall, fit, and intelligent, with a relatively high status and above-average income as an associate professor. Logically, I should be attractive to a wide range of women. In the animal kingdom, I would succeed in reproducing.

                                            from  The Rosie Project

 

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a man in a lounge chair at the beach, reading a big, thick book. Standing over him is an officer with “Beach Patrol” on his uniform, saying, “Sorry, sir, Dostoevsky is not considered beach reading. I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with me.”

Hear “beach” or “summer reading,” and most people will think of books that are entertaining, easily forgettable fluff—the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries, as Stephen King once described his books—with probably sand between the pages.

But is “Summer Reading” a valid category, I wondered. Do people really say to themselves, “Oh, it’s summer. Time to put away James Joyce and pull out James Patterson”? To find out, I conducted my own in-depth survey of the literary marketplace.

One hundred percent of the survey population (Janet at Paperbacks Galore) noted that while there might be “a small up tick in sales,” there was no qualitative difference in the books people buy for the summer months. “If people like science fiction, they read science fiction year ‘round,” Janet told me.

But maybe that’s just us. They don’t call us Literary Longview for nothing. So I visited the Vancouver Barnes & Noble, asking a young sales assistant if she would kindly direct me to the Summer Reading section. (Quizzical expression.) “Maybe the Beach Reading section?” (Quizzical replaced by baffled.) “Um, Fluff section?” (Baffled replaced by growing alarm.)

I was able to determine conclusively that B&N does not have a “Summer Reading” section; they do, however, have security personnel to escort out individuals who frighten the staff.

All this is to say that, if the category of Summer Reading were valid, The Rosie Project would undoubtedly qualify, a bestselling, fun and funny romantic comedy.

Don Tillman is experiencing a wife problem. He doesn’t have one. An associate professor of genetics, his work focuses on the genetic predisposition to cirrhosis of the liver. (“Much of my working time is devoted to getting mice drunk.”)

Highly intelligent, he is on the Asperger’s spectrum of autism, limited in his ability to read and interpret social cues. (Think of the portrayal of Alan Turing in the recent film “The Imitation Game.”)

Assisted by his friends, Gene and Claudia, Don devises a project to find a wife—He assures them that, contrary to their suspicions, he’s actually had lots of sexual experience, though he realizes adding another person will probably make sex more complicated. In his logical, scientific manner, he sets out, having identified the criteria for a suitable mate. Then he encounters Rosie Jarman, who meets none of them other than being female.

There is a side-plot about Don helping Rosie learn the identity of her biological father, but it feels like an excuse to give them something to do as they fall in love.

I don’t want to give too much away here, but let’s just say the story doesn’t end tragically.

Happy (summer) reading!

 

 

 


This review first appeared in The Columbia River Reader (July 15-August 14, 2015.) Reprinted with permission.

You can buy The Rosie Project on Amazon here.