Sunday, 19 October 2014

'The Rosie Project' and 'The Rosie Effect' (Don Tillman #1 and #2) by Graeme Simsion

I'm reviewing these two books together because I received an ARC of 'The Rosie Effect' through Goodreads First Reads (thank you, Goodreads!) so I'm mainly reviewing that book... But I'm ashamed to say I hadn't actually read 'The Rosie Project' before so I'm just gonna write out a few thoughts and feelings about that. If you're only interested in reading my review of the first book, only read the first half and if you're only interested in reading my review of the new release just scroll down until you see the picture of its cover. 

The Rosie Project:

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'The Rosie Project' tells us the story of a geneticist, Don Tillman, who creates a questionnaire in the attempt to find the perfect wife. His best friend, Gene, introduces him to a barmaid called Rosie, who is completely and utterly incompatible with Don, but he still decides to help her in her quest to find her biological father. 
The first thing I need to say is that I absolutely love this novel. I didn't know too much about it going in, mostly because I was extremely attracted to the book cover which was the main reason I purchased it (the second reason being that a best friend of mine read it extremely recently so I was more intrigued by it). A quick warning; Don's narrative is quite hard to get into at the beginning (reminiscent of Sheldon Cooper from 'The Big Bang Theory') but if you persevere you will not be disappointed. The changes that Don undergoes throughout the last hundred pages of the novel are inspirational - if you've ever been looking for the motivation to change something about yourself that you don't particularly appreciate, this is the novel to push you towards doing it - but even before he changes parts of his personality he's very easy to empathise with. Claudia's implication that he could be on the Autistic spectrum isn't explicitly confirmed, but if he is this is also a brilliant novel to allow a wider public to understand how Autism sufferers feel on a day to day basis while communicating with others. 
In equal parts a romance and a comedy I'm sure this book will mostly appeal to women, but it also tells an inspiring and heart-warming story about how someone regarded as an outsider can fit in if given the chance and the motivation. At the start of the novel Don is a man who has a Standardised Meal System dictating every meal that he eats, organises most of his thoughts in list formation and is living by schedules that are both unbreakable and not flexible in any way, which is an extreme opposite to the lives that I'm sure most of us lead. Rosie is the complete opposite; absolutely disorganised and always late to every meeting. The fact that these two can be compatible is both surprising and endearing, bringing hope to many people who might believe they can never find love as they are. 
The main plot line is quite obviously focused upon Don and Rosie's unconventional love story, but even the secondary plot focusing upon Don's best friends Claudia and Gene is compelling and intriguing. Gene is also a geneticist (which isn't as ironic as you'd think, as it's psychologically proven we're driven towards careers that are linked with our names) who is attempting to undergo a project to sleep with women of every nationality due to his open marriage with Claudia. I was automatically extremely against this idea, but the way that the novel deals with Claudia finally understanding her misgivings and starting to doubt her decision teaches a great lesson about communication in a relationship. Oftentimes people will make a decision and assume that it is set in stone, no matter how much they end up questioning it, so this is a great novel to tell people that they really do need to speak up instead of quietly seething under the surface. The end of the novel resolves with Gene and Claudia attempting to solve their marriage issues, while Rosie and Don are living a married life in New York, so it will be extremely interesting to see where these characters end up in the sequel. This isn't my favourite book ever, as some of the disagreements between Don and Rosie that diverted them from being together earlier just seemed unnecessary; yes, it helped Don develop more but it was obvious that they were going to end the novel together so at points it seemed a bit cliched and dragging, but moving onto the sequel with Don and Rosie together will probably be better.  
I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book for a very young audience (there is some use of strong language) but if you're 17ish or above it seems like the kind of read that would be incredibly enjoyable. The mystery of who Rosie's father is keeps you guessing until the very end and some of the language in the book is quite specialised, so if you're looking for an intellectual read that will keep you hooked this is definitely the book for you. 

I'm not going to dwell upon the first novel too much, as I am mostly focussing this review upon the sequel, 'The Rosie Effect', so if you haven't read the second book yet - stop scrolling!

The Rosie Effect:

*This review will contain spoilers!*

One complaint I have about 'The Rosie Effect' is the book cover. I know I received an ARC so I don't know if the final cover is different to this one, but the fact that the font has changed from the look of the original novel really annoys me. However, I do really appreciate the fact that Graeme Simsion's name is now in the lobster red colour, which has swapped with the green for the apple. Small details like that get a lot of appreciation from me. 
Before I start this review I need to remind you that I was reading an ARC of 'The Rosie Effect' that I won through Goodreads First Reads. I can't imagine any of the big details having changed too dramatically, but if your transcript is different to mine I apologise!
When reading a sequel to a book that I've really enjoyed, I'm always filled with a sense of fear and, unfortunately, it was correct to be worried in this instance. 'The Rosie Effect' picks up with Rosie and Don ten months after their marriage, on the day that Rosie discovers she's expecting their first child. The premise was extremely interesting; seeing the development of Don's people skills to appreciate and cope with Rosie was lovely and heart-warming, so I assumed it would be the same in the second book, but unfortunately I was left rather disappointed. 
The problem was not with the writing, which I still extremely enjoyed, or with Don who I still absolutely adore, but with Rosie. I understand that women experience a lot of emotions during pregnancy due to hormones and other worries, but Rosie's responses all seemed to extremely selfish. There is a massive difference between being self-sufficient and being inconsiderate to the people around you that you are hurting. I know that part of this problem is probably because Don is our protagonist, so we want to empathise with him and feel more adjusted towards his emotions, but it just made Rosie seem entirely irrational and unpredictable. In the first novel Rosie was by far my favourite aspect, so it was a shame that this was ruined for me. No matter how hard Don tried, it wasn't the effort that she was wanting him to put in, which I just felt was absolutely unbelievable. However, I also know that I'm not the best to judge their relationship, as I have never been married or pregnant, so I can't understand the motivations behind her actions in the slightest. 
Another issue I faced was the dissolution of Gene and Claudia's marriage. At the start of the book we discover that Gene has been caught cheating again, so Claudia has thrown him out, but other than acquiring the knowledge that Claudia has moved on with Simon Lefebvre (one of Rosie's prospective fathers from the original novel) it feels like the story line is left untied. Claudia and Gene never have a conversation or a resolution of their conflict, so it just seemed a bit unfinished; similarly at the end of the novel we find out that Gene's children, Eugenie and Carl, are visiting him in New York for Christmas despite the fact that Claudia doesn't trust him in the slightest and therefore would be unexpected to allow their children to fly to the other side of the world to see him. However, despite their relationship not getting the closure I would have enjoyed, I did enjoy the burgeoning relationship between Gene and Lydia towards the end of the novel and it would have been interesting to see where it went. Yes, this novel is 400 pages, but it just doesn't seem enough when the characters are so immersive you want to experience the rest of their lives. 
If you absolutely completely and utterly loved the first book, I'm sure you'll love the second book without a question. Don's character doesn't change at all, attempting to re-implement the Standardised Meal System and still automatically calculating the BMI of every person he encounters. The prominence of Dave, the Fat Baseball Guy he met on his first trip to New York, and his wife, Sonia, was one of my favourite things about the entire novel. Their relationship is both realistic and rational which makes it a lot easier to relate to than Don and Rosie's relationship, so they probably overtook the race for my favourite couple in the series. If you didn't absolutely love the first book, I'm sure you'll still enjoy the second book, but it might be a bit harder to enjoy. 
I don't know if there's going to be a third Don Tillman novel, but if there is I really hope there is less of the ridiculous conflict. The first novel managed to juggle ridiculous scenarios with emotional scenes perfectly, but some of the trouble that Don got into in this second novel just made me feel exasperated. If I could wish for anything from this series it would be a retelling of the second novel from Rosie's perspective, so she seemed less irrational pregnant woman and more woman attempting to look out for the needs of her unborn child. The way it's written at the moment she just seems incredibly impulsive and it doesn't come across as endearing or acceptable behaviour. The implication that she's in love with another man and is leaving Don for him broke my heart; even if someone is being the most unemotional person in the world you shouldn't attempt to push them away with lies.  
Despite all of my negative comments I actually really enjoyed this novel and I can't wait to read more from Graeme Simsion in the future, hopefully soon. I love his writing style even if I don't necessarily love all of his characters all of the time (and face it, a character is much better if they have faults! A flawless character would be a boring character) and I love the fact that I learn more from Don's scientific vocabulary than I ever did during science lessons at school. If we do encounter Don Tillman again in the future, I can't wait to see how his role as a father develops with practical experience rather than theory. 

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