Earlier this summer while road tripping around the US, I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I kept seeing piles of copies of it in bookstores, displayed on tables and prominently promoted. But it looked a little too “fluffy” for me – I was totally judging a book by its cover and title.
Then I saw that it was on the recommended summer reading list of Bill Gates, and that made me take notice. The next time I saw it at a bookstore I picked it up and decided to give it a shot.
For me, the key to finding a good “travel novel” or “beach read” is to find something that is lighthearted and a page turner, but that still has soul and substance. It also must be well written. It can be hard to find something that meets all criteria, but those that do tend to get great buzz and word of mouth – they are the type of books you feel confident recommending to all your friends. The Rosie Project meets that criteria, and I really enjoyed reading it while on the road. I was happy to see that a sequel would be coming out later in the year as well, The Rosie Effect. Earlier this month, I won a review copy of The Rosie Effect from the publisher, and was thrilled to be able to read it in advance of publication.
The best part of both novels is our main character and hero, Don Tillman. Graeme Simsion writes the character of Don with grace, and his insight into the mind of adult male with Asperger’s feels authentic. In The Rosie Project, the love interest – Rosie, isn’t the star, but she’s likable enough. She’s kind of a rebel, and she and Don form an unlikely pair, but one that works.
If I had felt about Don and Rosie the way I felt about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, or Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blake, I would have hated The Rosie Effect for ruining the relationship of characters whose literary relationships I was emotionally invested in. There’s only one way to sum up Rosie in The Rosie Effect: she’s an asshole.
The Rosie Effect is probably a great book for newlyweds to read to learn everything they should not do in a marriage if they want it to work, by observing Rosie’s example. Unless Rosie changes her passive aggressive ways and bad communication skills, if there was a third book in this series I’m pretty sure it would have to be called “The Rosie Divorce.”
As it happened, I wasn’t very invested in their romance. I realized I enjoyed The Rosie Project mainly for its humor and its introduction to Don Tillman, a funny, big hearted character that is fun to spend time with. And even though I didn’t like sequel as much as I enjoyed the original, I still liked reading more about Don. The Rosie Effect also develops Don’s friendships more – both old and new characters. The only heart in the book is Don building strong relationships with his friends, who help him through his marriage problems, and help him deal with how to handle the upcoming baby that is making his wife go nuts. Despite the craziness in his own life, Don also finds time to help his friends with their problems as well, in his own unique way. These friendships, not Rosie and Don’s marriage, make the book heartwarming.
So there you have it, and it’s your decision to make. If you liked The Rosie Project because of the romance between Don and Rosie, you’re going to want to throw The Rosie Effect across the room. If you liked it because Don Tillman is a fun character to spend time with, then you’ll probably find the sequel worth a read too.