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05 January 2014

Graeme Simsion: The Rosie Project

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" Wife Project" + "Father Project" = "The Rosie Project"
Once in a while I come across a gem of a book which, despite the fact that the year has only just started, will undoubtedly be in the list of the most memorable books I will read in 2014. "The Rosie Project" is an entertaining and amusing feel-good story that made me laugh, and sometimes cry and looked at love, personal relationships and self-discovery in a very different way.

On the surface, Professor of Genetics, Don Tillman, appears to be living a successful life as a top academic. However, Don is different from other successful academics because he has Asperger's syndrome and is autistic with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). He strictly timetables and regiments his personal life with the same meal plan each week and has his time strictly organised, day in, day out. He gets angry when someone arrives early or late for a meeting because he believes that everyone should arrive exactly on time.

Don knows that he is wired differently and has difficulty empathising and relating to others who don't meet his view of world - one of the defining criteria of the autism spectrum. Because of this Don has difficulty in finding a girlfriend who meets his precise standards. Following his need for precise information he starts up his own "Wife Project" by designing a multi-choice internet questionnaire to identify someone who completely meets his specific requirements for a wife. The outcome of his attempts to relate to girls who seem to pass his test is hilarious and sometimes a bit pathetic.

Along comes Rosie, who on the face of it would fail most of Don's questionnaire, asking for his help as a geneticist to find her biological father. Her late mother told her that her father was one of her graduating class of budding medicos - and there were nearly 50 males in the class. Don and Rosie start a hilarious search to get the DNA of all surviving male students or their relatives and descendants without their knowledge - of course Don calls it the "Father Project".

I found Don to be exasperating but I was always cheering him as he blundered around trying to discover his place in the world. Rosie is completely different, a delightful caring whirlwind who has her own deep seated problems. While she doesn't meet Don's expectations, a close and almost tender relationship develops between them which neither of them expects - hence "The Rosie Project".

One of my New Year's resolutions was to read "outside the wheelhouse" of my usual choice of thrillers and historical sagas. It was very gratifying to find a different kind of book so early in the year that rewarded my choice of resolution. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a to read a different, amusing, fairly light and rewarding book.

Last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed "600 Hours of Edward" about someone who has a much more extreme case of OCD than Don. The two books are very different, but if you enjoyed "The Rosie Project" I am sure that you would enjoy reading about how Edward faced up to major changes in his rigidly regimented life.

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