Several months after their marriage and the completion of The Rosie Project, we once again meet Don Tillman and his now wife, Rosie Jarman. The couple have re-located from Melbourne to New York where Don is a professor in genetics at Columbia University while Rosie juggles her PhD and her medical studies at the same institution.
Since meeting Rosie, ultra-rational Don has become accustomed to a slightly more disordered life than the one he was used to prior to The Wife Project, abandoning the Standardised Meal System and successfully – for the most part – adapting to sharing living space with another person. But Rosie throws a huge spanner into the last straps of his spreadsheet-dominated life when she announces she’s pregnant. The ensuing Baby Project initially has rather less success than his previous scheme, but with the help of his seven friends he may once again overcome his genetic hardwiring to triumph in a human relationship.
Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project was one of the most delightful books I’ve read, and its sequel, while maybe not quite as focussed, is still a wonderfully joyful read. Simsion has created a fictional superstar in Gregory Peck look-a-like Don and, even if the plot is a little contrived, Simsion – like Don – constantly surprises. He’s a fantastic comic writer with a lively brain and neat style; just when it looks like we’re wandering down the weary road of rom-com cliche, Simsion unleashes a perfectly timed comic shift. The plot may be a little thin, but it’s padded out by some fantastically funny set pieces as the very loveable Don once again lands himself in accidental scrape after scrape.
Joining Don on his new project is old mate Gene, over from Australia after the collapse of his marriage; Dave, a bloke Don met watching baseball in a bar and George, an ageing British rock who form part of Don’s small friendship group. And it’s testament to Simsion’s talent as a writer that he can make even that old ‘ageing British rock star’ stereotype feel fresh.
The only aspect that doesn’t feel quite realised is Rosie herself. In The Rosie Project, she was a little blurry, but as we were seeing her through Don’s less than emotionally focused eyes, I presumed that this was deliberate. But once again, she’s a faint outline who does little except moan. Her motivation for leaving Don, even including some clever childhood psychology and a genetic argument, never quite rung true. It was only towards the end that we saw hints of The World’s Most Perfect Woman’s own far from average rationale giving us a glimpse at the couple’s compatibility than had been missing.
But while her name might be in the title, The Rosie Effect is Don’s story and the Don Tillman effect is once again enchanting.
by Suzanne Elliott
The Rosie Effect is published by Michael Joseph and available in hardback and Kindle from 25th September 2014.