Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Title The Rosie Project
Author Graeme Simsion
Published May 21st, 2013 by HarperCollins Canada
Pages 329 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Romance, Comedy, Asperger’s Syndrome
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Purchased from Chapters, Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters


The feel-good hit of 2013, The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance about a handsome but awkward genetics professor and the woman who is totally wrong for him

A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea.

He will design a questionnaire — a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire — to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.

“I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem. As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect. But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would have discovered it.”

Don Tillman has never met a problem that couldn’t be solved with a simple scientific or evidence-based algorithm. That is, until he encounters what he calls ‘The Wife Problem’. A successful, intelligent Associate Professor of genetics at the University of Melbourne, Don theoretically possesses all the qualities that a woman would desire in a mate. Having always dreamt of one day being married, at the age of thirty-nine the possibility of ever becoming so seems less and less likely as Don becomes increasingly discouraged after an endless series of unsuccessful and disappointing dates. Having always found social interaction difficult and traditional methods of dating ineffective and an unproductive use of his time, Don believes he has finally hit upon the perfect solution: the Wife Project. A complex, explicit questionnaire designed to expedite the process by weeding out all the unsuitable candidates, the Wife Project takes everything from a woman’s intellectual prowess, personal habits and body mass index into account. Things seem to be going according to plan until a chance encounter with Rosie Jarman turns Don’s carefully ordered life upside down. While it quickly becomes clear that Rosie is as far from a suitable candidate for The Wife Project as Don could possibly imagine, the two are continually thrust together in a series of delightful and hilarious situations that bring the two ever closer. Don soon becomes involved in Rosie’s quest to ascertain the identity of her biological father, offering his genetics expertise in order to assist Rosie achieve some semblance of closure in her life. And while the Wife Project and the Father Project prove to be two of Don’s toughest challenges, nothing could have prepared him for what will be his most difficult task yet to come: The Rosie Project.

“…It dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept, but to find someone who might accept me.”

The minute I read Bree’s review for The Rosie Project on All The Books I Can Read (See review Here) back in March, I knew this was the perfect book for me! While I had to wait a few months for the novel to become available in Canada, I purchased it the instant I was able to, and I’m so thankful I did. After completing Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects I was in desperate need of more light-hearted, feel-good fare, and I’m happy to report that The Rosie Project was the perfect choice. An ingeniously smart, quirky, witty romantic comedy that would be the perfect choice for fans of Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook, Graeme Simsion’s debut novel is the heart-warming story of one man’s quest to find his place in the world and the perfectly imperfect woman who teaches him man’s great capacity for love.

“Her tone indicated that this was the end of her contribution to the conversation. It was my turn to use a standard platitude to reciprocate, and the obvious one was the simple reflection of ‘You’re a star’….On reflection, I could have just said ‘Goodbye’ or ‘See you’, but I had no time for reflection. There was considerable pressure to make a timely response.
“I like you, too.”
The entire lecture theatre exploded in applause.
A female student in the front row said ‘Smooth’. She was smiling.
Fortunately I was accustomed to creating amusement inadvertently.”

Don Tillman was one of the sweetest, most charming protagonists I’ve read about in recent memory! Meticulously organized, pedantic, erudite, socially awkward and absolutely adorable, Don was a man after my own heart. Although it’s never explicitly stated, it’s strongly implied that Don suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. While Don is not aware of this himself, he exhibits many traits indicative of this sort of condition, like a discomfort with physical contact, difficulty with basic, fundamental social interaction, and an inability to understand and express emotion in a clear manner. This topic was handled with extreme sensitivity and care and I never felt as though Simsion was exploiting the issue to his advantage. Often marked out for his ‘odd’ behaviour, Don has always struggled to fit into conventional society. Forced to cope with a world that simply doesn’t understand him, Don has learned over the years how to utilize his quirks and eccentricities to best advantage, laughing alongside those who would seek to humiliate or denigrate him. His perseverance in the face of such ridicule was extremely admirable and sent a wonderful message about staying true to oneself. While there is much one can learn from Don, I think one of the things I loved most about him was his constant quest for self-improvement. Whether he’s dedicating himself to the study of mixology, dancing or sex, he applies himself with a single-minded focus and earnest dedication that I can only wish I could employ in my own life. His unshakeable belief that anything is possible if one only sets their mind to it is something that I believe many of us could benefit from if we were only receptive to the message. There’s an innocence and vulnerability to Don’s character that makes him instantly endearing and made it extremely easy to fall in love with his character. Rarely do I find myself becoming this invested in a character, but I fell absolutely, head-over-heads in love with Don Tillman and would be the first to submit an application to the Wife Project given half the chance!

“Do you find me attractive?”
Gene told me the next day that I got it wrong. But he was not in a taxi, after an evening of total sensory overload, with the most beautiful woman in the world. I believed I did well. I detected the trick question. I wanted Rosie to like me, and I remembered her passionate statement about men treating women as objects. She was testing to see if I saw her as an object or as a person. Obviously, the correct answer was the latter.
“I haven’t really noticed,” I told the most beautiful woman in the world.

Rosie Jarman, a perpetually late, outspoken, opinionated feminist, smoker and pescetarian, is the last woman on earth Don would expect himself to be drawn to. A PhD student specializing in psychology and moonlighting as a barmaid, Rosie was a vivacious, complex, nuanced character who leapt off the page. While I’m sure that Rosie would argue that she’s a strong, independent woman (and she is!) the real beauty in her character could be found in her unexpected vulnerability. Her grief concerning her mother’s death, her hesitancy about continuing in the search for her biological father’s identity, and her anxiety and uncertainty about pursuing a romantic relationship with Don culminated to create an intricately crafted character who rose above the cliché ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ trope that we often experience within this genre. Rosie was an authentic, relatable character, and I loved that she continually challenged Don to step outside of his comfort zone, and in the process, demonstrated enormous growth as well.

“If I understood correctly, I was now definitely far out of my depth. I needed to be sure that I wasn’t misinterpreting her.
“Are you suggesting I stay the night?”

“Maybe. First you have to listen to the story of my life.”

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson. Unidentified alien approaching!

The chemistry between Don and Rosie was palpable, even if Don was largely oblivious to the depth of feeling that slowly blossomed between them. While I’ve seen complaints that Don’s quest to help Rosie find her birth father monopolized too much of the overall story, I had absolutely no problem with this and found it acted as a wonderful way to bring the two characters closer together. Having always struggled to empathize with people, Don’s ability to learn more about Rosie through this process was a wonderful way to examine a previously unexplored aspect of his personality. I found it fascinating that this project prompted Don to act instinctively as opposed to in the same cold, detached manner he had previously operated under. Although he couldn’t rationally understand why he wanted to help Rosie at the outset of the Father Project, his feelings for her were made evident far before he was able to vocalize them, thanks in large part to Graeme Simsion’s subtly and skill. Whether she was rescuing him on the dance floor or helping him appreciate the simple beauty of the night sky over the city skyline, I appreciated how patient Rosie was with Don and that their time together was composed of an infinite number of small, touching moments that culminated in one of the best love stories I’ve read in recent memory. I wanted to hug this book to my chest and never let go.

“If I find a partner, which seems increasingly unlikely, I wouldn’t want a sexual relationship with anyone else. But I’m not good at understanding what other people want.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” said Rosie for no obvious reason.
I quickly searched my mind for an interesting fact. “Ahhh…The testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex.”

The hilarious, heart-warming story of one man’s journey of self discovery and his search for the fundamental love and acceptance that we all crave, The Rosie Project is a beautiful novel that moved me to tears on more than one occasion and was one of the best and most pleasurable reading experiences I’ve had in recent memory. With a cinematic scope and sharp dialogue that would make this novel ideal for an adaptation to the big screen, Graeme Simsion’s debut novel was reminiscent of some of the best romantic comedies of the last century like When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, and The Philadelphia Story. A book that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step, The Rosie Project is one that I’ll be pressing into the hands of everyone I know and would make the perfect addition to anyone’s reading list. With a single novel Graeme Simsion has earned a place on my Auto-Buy list and I can only look forward to what he’ll write next. Now the only question is: Where can I find a Don Tillman of my very own?

Overall Rating

Around The Web

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● Kylie @ The Newton Review of Books wrote “The Rosie Project is a tender, heart-warming and completely charming comedy that is a pure joy to read.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Bree @ All The Books I Can Read wrote “This book really did have it all: humour, touches of sadness and a truly unique pairing. What I really love is that this book isn’t about Don changing to find love, it’s about love finding him the way that he is, even when it seems unlikely.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Kate @ Books Are My Favourite And Best wrote “The Rosie Project is the only book I’ve read this year that I’d recommend to everybody – It’s very funny, it’s romantic (but certainly not in a schmaltzy way) and there’s a few twists to keep you reading right until the very last page.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

12 Responses

  1. I have never heard of this, but it sounds adorableeeeee. The questionnaire reminds me of the song The Quiz by Hello Saferide, which is basically the cutest.

    Oh man, the Wife Problem.

    “…It dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept, but to find someone who might accept me.” <- FEELS.

    Bleh, she smokes. I loathe smoking. However, I think I may read this anyway and pretend she doesn't. God, smoking is so stupid. Why do people do it?
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Review: The ChaliceMy Profile

    1. The Rosie Project is just too cute for words, Christina. I can’t recommend it highly enough! I think it’s a book that you might enjoy, too.

      I’ll never understand the desire to smoke either. I’ve always found the habit disgusting, and like Don, have always vowed that I could never date a smoker. I guess it goes to show that true love does conquer all 😉 I will say that it really isn’t an important aspect of the story. I believe it’s mentioned only once or twice and to her credit, Rosie is conscious that it bothers Don and goes out of her way to make sure it hardly effects him.
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionMy Profile

  2. This sounds like a lot of fun! I will have to check it out when it comes out in the US. (I really hate it when something I want to read has already come out elsewhere in the world, but I’m stuck waiting on it. I imagine this makes me really American, but that is no surprise.)

    1. It was an absolute blast to read! 😀 It was so much fun, and it was a nice change of pace to read a book that was almost entirely heart-warmining and light-hearted. While I love an immersive, dark drama as much as the next person, there’s something to be said for a reading experience that is entirely positive and leaves you with a smile on your face for hours afterwards!

      I completely understand your impatience for a book to be published, particularly when it’s available in areas other than your own! The wait for The Rosie Project to be published in Canada seemed interminable, but I can say that it ended up being well worth it 🙂 I think we all experience the desire to ‘have it now’, particularly in Western society, and I would imagine that an innumerable number of readers and bloggers could sympathize with our feelings in that regard!
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionMy Profile

  3. I’ve only ever read a handful of Adult books, most of them Chick-lit. The Rosie Project, however, seems so interesting! Don and Rosie seem to share great chemistry and I can’t wait to see for myself how their relationship will come to be. Humor and comedy in a book is definitely a plus. Definitely reading this sometime soon! Awesome review, Jen! 😀
    Hazel recently posted…Swoon Worthy Saturday #5My Profile

    1. I’ve been attempting to incorporate more adult fiction into my reading schedule in order to mix things up a little 🙂 A change of pace is always nice, and I don’t ever want to feel like I need to exclusively read young adult as it’ll eventually become a chore.

      I will say that I think The Rosie Project is so charming and sweet that it would appeal to even the most reluctant adult fiction reader! I would love to hear your thoughts on it should you ever read it 😀
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionMy Profile

    1. ‘Lovely’ really is the perfect word to describe The Rosie Project! 🙂 It’s sweet and romantic while also managing to be socially conscious and sensitive about the important issues. Don and Rosie had a wonderful rapport and really played well off of one another!

      P.S. I fixed your typo for you – We’ve all been there, trust me!
      Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader recently posted…Top Ten Favourite Types of SettingsMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!