It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review–I must admit that I haven’t actually read a book for a good period of time, probably since last Fall. I guess reading wasn’t on my mind when I was fighting my depression.
Now that things are better, though, I decided I would re-join the book club I started attending last year, so I picked up where they were. For the April meeting, the book is The Rosie Project.
I guess I’m glad that I’m getting back into reading with a book like this one. I don’t think I could have handled something heavier or more difficult.
The Rosie Project is a love story between a geneticist, Don, looking for The Perfect Wife, and a psychology PhD student, Rosie, trying to find her biological father. Don is a highly logical, rational man with a perfectly regimented life and penchant for alcohol. Rosie is a rebellious feminist with a smoking habit and a preference for sustainable seafood. They are unsuitable for each other, and yet…
If you’re a friend on Goodreads (here’s my profile link if you’re not yet), you’ll notice that I gave this book only 3 stars. That’s not because it was a bad book or because I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I read it in a weekend.
First, the really good things. My favourite element of the book was the narrative voice. The story is told from Don’s point of view, which means that you get in the head of a (possibly Asperger) scientist who must reflect rationally on everything. It’s interesting to see him analyze his feelings from a non-emotional point of view, and also to see how his relationship with Rosie both deepens his understanding of his own character and inserts irrational elements to his life. How he deals with the irrationality and his heightened emotional state is the most fascinating and interesting part of the book.
However, the novel carries the skeleton of its origin as a movie script–specifically, a romantic comedy. It touches on all the story points: a meeting over a misunderstanding, initial attraction followed by the knowledge that the two are incompatible, falling in love over a common project that forces them together anyway, idyllic getaway where something almost happens, first fight, adjustment, dark moment, reconciliation and finally, you guessed it, marriage. It was all rather conventional and easy to follow.
Not that it’s a bad thing, if you like to read things that are conventional. Romantic comedies provide a certain type of pleasure, when you’re looking for that kind of thing. I’m not a big watcher of romantic comedies; they are generally too similar and idyllic, and when you’ve seen one, you’ve basically seen them all.
Aside from the main character, who is a strange but strangely likeable nerd, The Rosie Project is not a subversive novel challenging the conventions of the romantic genre. But as a member of its species, it’s a pretty successful one. It’s lighthearted, funny and leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. It doesn’t make you roll your eyes in annoyance and actually makes you smile quite often. So, for that, I give it major props, as my only foray into romance novels mostly turned me off the genre.
If you’re in a mood for a quick, easy read in an airplane or on the beach, or if you enjoy romantic comedies, The Rosie Project will be a pleasurable experience for you. It doesn’t make you think too hard, makes you feel good about the possibility of finding love in the strangest corners and gives you a glimpse of how people with Aspergers or highly functional autism might process the world around them. It was definitely a fun read.