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'The Rosie Project'




April is World Autism Awareness month, and unintentionally, although perhaps subconsciously, I decided to borrow The Rosie Project from the library.

Published in 2013, The Rosie Project was the first novel from Australian computer scientist turned writer Graeme Simsion. It was a bestseller, and .paved the way for a potential film adaptation and second book.

But wait, “what does The Rosie Project have to do with autism?” I hear you cry! Well, one of the most brilliant aspects of the book is that our protagonist, Don Tillman a University lecturer on genetics, is an undiagnosed sufferer of Asperger’s Syndrome. Written in the first person, we are taken through the story by Don, who offers an interesting, and often entertaining look at the world through his uncomprehending eyes.

With many cases of Asperger’s thought to be going unnoticed due to sufferers following careers that allow them to mask their symptoms, (such as in science and computing), Don is allegedly based on the men Simsion worked with over the years who were quite able to function in the world of computers, but struggled when it came to understanding the world outside.

The Rosie Project opens with Don feeling content with his life, but in need of a life partner. Although he believes himself to be a perfect candidate ‘for mating’, his difficultly in social situations has held him back. Spurred on by rational thinking, he invents ‘The Wife Project’ and creates tests for potential partners to take which he can use to judge their suitability. But when Rosie, a spontaneous PHD student and part-time barmaid, turns up at his flat asking for his help, Don finds himself encapsulated in a new project, and for the first time, he begins to question the purely rational thinking that has led him through his entire life.

The story arc itself is predictable enough, but it is Don’s narrative that makes it so special. An insight into the mind of an autistic person, who cannot help but struggle to understand the importance of sensitivity in the face of hard facts, it is extremely interesting, and helps the reader to comprehend a different sort of thinking. Particularly if you know someone on the autistic spectrum, it may be especially insightful.

It is told in a delightfully humorous, yet sensitive way, and gives the reader the full ability to sympathise with both Don and Rosie, as well as fully understanding each character’s point of view. It also well-written, and the character of Don is masterfully fleshed out, no doubt due to Simsion’s extended experience working with the people that inspired his creation.

Overall, it is a charming, insightful read, and it maintains a good pace throughout. Not overlong, but not too short either, it is a feel-good book that will make you laugh out loud and have real affection for its characters. A good book with a unique twist, it’s definitely worth getting your hands on.

Written by Sarah Sutton


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