A brilliant follow-up to The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion’s latest novel, The Rosie Effect, maintains the charm and perfectly crafted characters of the original, while bringing up fresh social dilemmas for Professor Don Tillman.
Rosie and Don have moved from Melbourne to New York and things are going smoothly as Don is preparing to recreate their first dinner together: he’s studied the precise patterns of behaviour required to charm Rosie and can even vary his strict routines. Rosie comes home, Don gets confused by Rosie not drinking and Rosie announces that she’s pregnant – it’s going to take more than some Gregory Peck impressions for Don to keep his marriage going strong.
As readers of The Rosie Project will know, Simsion avoids the term ‘autistic’ in relation to Don (in one brilliant passage, Don argues that Rain Man seems highly inefficient and nothing like him), but it is Don’s confusion at social cues that is the source of humour and pathos at the heart of this rom-com. Don’s reaction to having a child is fear at his inexperience with children and withdrawal that threatens his marriage. Rosie is left to attend sonograms on her own while Don secretly sketches medically accurate illustrations of his child at each stage of development on his bathroom walls.
Just as The Rosie Project portrays the pitfalls of dating through Don’s world-view with wry observation and Don’s impressive aikido moves, The Rosie Effect explores the realities of marriage and starting a family after riding off into the sunset. Don’s friend Dave and his pregnant wife provide a warm parallel with their own fears of impending parenthood.
The only slight disappointment is Rosie’s distance in the majority of the narrative: her frustration at Don shifts her charm in the first novel to being just another adversary that fails to understand Don. It’s up to the array of supporting characters to keep the momentum of the narrative around Don’s misadventures.
The interesting (or as some would lazily call ‘quirky’) angle of Don’s outlook on life makes the novel’s fluffy centre deeply rewarding. Simsion knows his characters, and audience, so well that the result is a polished and confident novel that is full of sincerity and enthusiasm to entertain.