Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Rosie Project (and what makes a perfect book)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Genre: Contemporary/comic
No. of pages: 300

Don Tillman in a thirty nine year old Genetics professor at an Australian university, and he has decided that he would like to get married. He has come to this conclusion  because studies show that married people live happier, more productive and fulfilled lives. Plus it is so much more efficient and economical, sharing the cost of living, cooking meals for two rather than one... Unfortunately he's never really had a relationship that has lasted beyond the first date, people - particularly women - do find him a bit weird, as his social skills are not very good. Also, he is very particular about the sort of woman he would be able to live with - they shouldn't drink (much), should be intelligent, must not smoke, be able to dance... One day he has the perfect idea of how to solve it - a very detailed questionnaire, so he can screen out all of the unsuitable candidates. So begins The Wife Project. He's after the perfect wife and many are unsuitable, none more so than Rosie...

Before I get on to what I thought of The Rosie Project, in the spirit of the story I would try out The Book Project and see how suitable this book is. So here's my list of what I'd need to make the perfect book.

  1. Beautiful writing, the kind of prose that really sucks you in, makes you feel like you are there, drinking in every delightful word.
  2. A good story, well constructed and not predictable.
  3. Characters that you really get to know and care about what happens to them
  4. A sense of awe and wonder
  5. Lots of really fascinating detail, where you learn a lot.
  6. A real page turner.
  7. A happy ending
  8. A world in which you can escape into and forget your real life worries
  9. The right length, not too long that it takes forever to read, but not so short that it is over too soon.
  10. An overall great feeling at the end that you've just read a fantastic book that you want to tell everyone about.
So how did this book fare? Well like Rosie, this book fails many of the criteria: the writing isn't beautiful (it isn't that kind of book, it is short and snappy rather than overly verbose), the book is nothing if not predictable and there's no sense of awe or wonder. You never really escape into it, like you would with some books, and it is not exactly a page turner though it is a quick read. So what does it have in its favour? Well I really liked the character of Don. He is rather odd by most standards but that just makes him quite endearing and I really found myself hoping and wishing everything would turn out for him. It is funny in many places, sometimes laugh out loud funny, and it has *very slight spoiler* a happy ending. And as for number 10, it did leave me with a great feeling of having read a great book (though now, a few days later this has faded a fair bit, quicker than may be the case with heavier fare).

So it fails many of the above tests, but then that's the point really isn't it? That's why you don't judge a book (or a woman) on the results of a questionnaire!

I feel I should mention one criticism of the book, which is that it isn't actually very reflective of people with Asperger's Syndrome and in fact is potentially quite insulting to them. I don't know about this, but although Asperger's is mentioned, Don doesn't think of himself as having this, and there is at most the inference that he has, it is never explicitly stated. I don't think the author intended this to be a serious book about people with Asperger's or similar mental conditions. It is meant to be a light hearted, heart warming and funny book, and in this the author has definitely been successful. I'd give this a 9/10, just. I nearly marked it down for being a bit too light and fluffy, but in the end I didn't have the heart to.