Smiling and quietly chuckling away on the plane to Poland, bursting out with laughter (my friends repeatedly asking me what’s so funny) at our Airbnb and crying with joy on the plane journey home (whilst others sat near me looked tearfully bored), this wonderful book served as an excellent holiday companion and made me feel an unexpected myriad of emotions.
Simsion’s story serves similarly-sized spoonfuls of humour, seriousness, intellect, silliness, science, wit and love.
Don Tillman initially has some trouble finding a suitable mate. Despite this, Simsion’s portrayal of this character charms most of his readers. Many women and some men would love to marry Don Tillman – others to befriend him, do crazy science with him, be taught by him or taste one of his delicious cocktails.
Due to lack of luck in the love department (try saying that after a few of his cocktails), Tillman devises ‘The Wife Project’ with the intention of finding the perfect partner. However, things get interesting when someone seemingly incompatible comes along …
For me, this book brings up a few questions about neurodiversity and whether or not people should change for those they love, and to what extent.
Regardless, I think that The Rosie Project manages to look at Asperger’s in a sensitive yet honest and humourous way. It also challenges some of the false proconceptions of autism spectrum condition, ignorance and some negative stigmas that are sometimes still evident in the 21st century. It dually shares how some people wrongly perceive Asperger’s/ASC to be a ‘fault’ and (in my opinion) a bloody brilliant argument against it!
‘Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage. Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organisation, focus, innovative thinking and rational detachment.’
Interestingly, Graeme Simsion didn’t intentionally set out to create Don Tillman as a character with autism. However, many – like myself – read him in this way.
A few years ago, I was on the train back from London and happened to sit opposite a lovely lady I immediately ‘clicked’ with. We spent hours yapping away (making the long journey to Aberystwyth seem short!) and she shared many stories – some laughing about her own traits, as she described her life as an ‘aspie’.
She told me that once, as a youngun, her mum asked her to ‘hold [her] glasses for a minute’, whilst in a shopping centre. A few minutes later, her mum returned and asked, with surprise ‘why did you drop my glasses on the floor?’, to which she replied ‘because you asked me to hold them for a minute’.
A moment in The Rosie Project made me immediately think of my train buddy’s tale:
‘‘I need a minute to think,’ she said. I automatically started the timer on my watch. Suddenly Rosie started laughing. I looked at her, understandably puzzled at this outburst in the middle of a critical life decision.
‘The watch,’ she said. ‘I say “I need a minute” and you start timing. Don is not dead.’’
Looking on Goodreads, some people seem to think that this book kinda makes fun of people with autism. I respect their opinion and the fact that we all perceive things differently. However, I totally disagree with them.
I think that this book looks at such traits in a playful and fun yet sensitive way. It highlights how we are all different and celebrates those differences. We all have our quirks – it’s what makes life, love and literature so interesting. We are all unique.
It paints a wonderful portrait of a likeable – even lovable – character. Being able to read a story through the lens of a person with ASC is a rarity. This book so does that extremely well. Don is a well-rounded, wonderful character. Simsion has created a successful, intelligent, driven, funny, honest and hard-working character that many readers love! And he happens to encapsulate many traits commonly found on the spectrum. When he socialises with some people who are different to him, there are some comical situations. And there is nothing wrong with that. Often, different people coming together produces funny scenarios in real life. This book conveys that well.
I must add one thing … Despite a handful of similar traits that some people on the spectrum may share, autism is different for each individual, just like we all have our own fingerprints. We all have our quirks and differences, no matter where we are on the spectrum, or if we are neurotypical.
If you know someone with autism, you know one person.
We are all different. This book lovingly and playfully potrays that.
I highly recommend The Rosie Project. A different kind of love story. Get ready to laugh and, if you’re anything like me, cry. You can even complete the Wife Project questionnaire to see if you’re a suitable match for Don Tillman…