Sunday, March 2, 2014

"The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion

Have you see that movie about the straight-laced guy whose world gets turned upside down by an unexpected, quirky woman? You know, he's stuck in his ways--life in a rut. Has very particular ideas of where his life's headed. And then he meets her--and she's so different from him. She's wild and unrestrained (but also a little sad inside), and suddenly he's doing things he never would have done before, and, even more shockingly, he's enjoying it. You know, that movie?

Okay, so "manic pixie dream girl" is such a common trope that we have a well-known phrase for it. We see it time and again in movies, TV, and literature, but apparently it doesn't get old. Because it's the plot for The Rosie Project.

The fact that the plot of The Rosie Project has been done a thousand times before doesn't make the book bad, but it also makes it largely unremarkable and expected. For that reason, I'm surprised at the praise the novel has received, as, for me, it was a very run-of-the-mill story. I suppose the "twist" that's supposed to make Simsion's novel different is that the protagonist Don is not your average straight-lacer. Instead, he's an autistic/Asperger's-type professor. But even that seems derivative. After all, I've read plenty of novels with a similar narrator, and like those novels, Don is also of the autistic genius trope: he's great with math and science, remembers minute details, takes life literally, is a slave to routine, and is poor in social situations.

He's still a more engaging character than the "dream girl," Rosie. We're told throughout the novel about her anger towards men, presumably because of her poor relationship with her stepfather. But we get few details about that relationship, and in the end, her anger with him seems boiled down to the fact that he failed to take her to Disney World.

As a rom-com, The Rosie Project is cute and sweet with appropriate character sidekicks and relationship twists. It just isn't great reading.

Stray thoughts
- This is the second book in a row I've read that casually takes place in Australia. It's made my America-normativity abundantly clear. I just assumed both this and The Husband's Secret took place in the U.S. and was suddenly surprised when a stray fact indicated otherwise.

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