Australian books, Australian literature, book recommendations, book reviews, books, Graeme Simsion, literature, manic pixie dream girl, Melbourne, read, reading, rom com, romantic comedy, The Rosie Project, what to read
Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project is one of those books I’d heard endless good things about: It won the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, it’s an international best seller and lots of friends had recommended it. Also, it has a cool cover.
But. It’s also a romantic comedy, which I’m not so keen on. In fiction, I prefer both romance and comedy served black, with no sugar. Still, after months of picking it up and putting it down again in bookshops, I decided to give it a go. Or, more accurately, my book club decided to give it a go.
The plot has potential to be very funny, even if it is a little on the predictable side. Associate Professor Don Tillman is looking for a very specific woman to wed, he’s just not quite sure how to find her. Being socially awkward in the extreme, he doesn’t want to waste time with something as inefficient and potentially embarrassing as dating, so he devises The Wife Project. He sends out complicated surveys on dating sites and waits for them to bring him his perfect match. Then Rosie shows up. Shock of shocks, she doesn’t meet any of his criteria and, in true token manic pixie dream girl fashion, proceeds to turn his life upsidedown by engaging him to help her find her real father, aka The Father Project.
I thought: maybe this will be like John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, or Scarlett Thomas’s Going Out—both romantic comedies about socially awkward guys drawn out of their comfort zones by unlikely girls, and both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, what these have that The Rosie Project lacks are quirkier plots and interesting, well-rounded characters.
The Rosie Project goes in exactly the direction you expect it too, including the part where all seeming chaos and conflict is neatly tied up in the final ten pages (I’m not even kidding, it’s exactly ten pages). Don even says (nine pages from the end), ‘I had been living in the world of a romantic comedy and this was the final scene. But it was real.’ Good for him, but not so interesting for the reader, who has presumably read and or watched romantic comedies in the past and is expecting some point of difference.
The characters also appear to be made of cardboard and, as such, are difficult to invest in. I finished reading the book about an hour ago and all I remember about Rosie was that she had red hair, smoked and was apparently ‘the most beautiful woman int he world,’ but didn’t like to be objectified as such (so, fiesty manic pixie dream girl). Don was more interesting, and might have been a solid character, save for a string of logic flaws and inconsistencies, which I discuss here.
I can see why so many people enjoy The Rosie Project—the writing and story flow for that forget-your-even-reading feeling, and it ticks all the boxes a rom com needs to tick. However, I was hoping for a little bit more—not a literary masterpiece, mind—just a distinctive point of difference: a voice I hadn’t heard before, an unexpected twist, a memorable character. Instead, I was left feeling as though this was a story that had been told before, and told better.