'The Rosie Project' - Book Review

A 2013 book By Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project is a first person tale delivered by our antagonist, Don Tillman. Tillman is a Genetics Professor who believes in efficiency, scheduling every moment of his life, and is no good at all at reading other's emotions or reactions (although at least he's aware of this). Early on, a friend of his gets Tillman to do a guest lecture on the Autism spectrum and hints to Tillman he might be on that spectrum - a hint that Tillman completely fails to get. So I guess that hint was for the reader, and also to let us know what his friends know what he is.

Tillman embarks on "The Wife Project," which has him creating a detailed questionnaire for prospective candidates by which he can filter out unsuitable women (all in the name of efficiency). He's unimpressed that people don't fill it out completely, or at all - don't they understand how much time it saves both him and them? His progress on The Wife Project is somewhat derailed by the arrival Rosie, a young woman looking for assistance in locating her genetic father. This turns into a long-term project for Tillman, despite the inefficiency of it - and he's not even sure why he's doing it. Certainly, Rosie is a totally unsuitable candidate for The Wife Project: she's often late, and she smokes. But The Father Project continues.

About 60 pages in, I nearly gave up in disgust: Don Tillman is a bit of an ass, and despite being extremely intelligent he's so staggeringly blind to other people's emotions as to be unbelievable. (I know this is a characteristic of people on the Autism spectrum, but even given that I think it was overplayed.) But the arrival of Rosie made the book rather better. For the most part, the book is a quick and easy read, and fairly entertaining. It reminded me considerably of the excellent The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is also written from the point of someone on the Autism spectrum.

I was amazingly blind to cultural references in the book (is it possible they weren't there?): I assumed it was at an American university. About 170 pages in, someone said "I was taking the piss," and I still thought they were a British import. It wasn't until page 200 (of a 350 page book) that I finally found out that we were in Australia - when it was directly mentioned.