Remember The Rosie Project? The book that took the world by storm about a kooky, socially awkward scientist named Don Tillman who eventually finds his better half Rosie in the somewhat disastrous but ultimately successful experiment he termed the ‘Rosie Project’. Fast forward to The Rosie Effect, the next installment where we reunite with Rosie and Don, now living in wedded bliss in New York.
I was one of those people who adored the first book. I read it voraciously, devoured it even, cover to cover in a single day and then told all my friends and family that they absolutely had to read it. It was so unique, and I was absorbed by the characters, it was just so different from anything I had read before.
This time there’s a spanner in the works, Don and Rosie are expecting a little bundle of joy and Don is determined to prepare appropriately, even if Rosie has banned him from any technical talk. While Don tries to understand the baby in development, AKA ‘Bud’, Rosie spirals in her own way, refusing to change her Doctorate or thesis and very deliberately avoiding Don’s pregnancy approved meals.
Pregnancy is hard of the best of relationships, but with Don’s unconventionality and his lack of social skills and Rosie’s stubbornness the imminent arrival of Bud spells disaster for the Tillamn family. Add to the mix Don’s womanising best friend and professor of genetics, Gene coming to stay with them in New York due to insolvable marriage breakdown, the Bluefin Tuna incident, a beer fridge in a rock stars apartment and a nosy social worker and it’s a wonder this family functions at all. There’s that same unintentional humour as Don tries to navigate the world with his unique viewpoint and the inevitable hijinks that Gene, Don’s new friends Dave and Sonia and George the aged rock star drummer find themselves in. But there’s also some heart and feeling, even if I struggled to accept that this book really was about the difficulties and Don and Rosie’s marriage.
That’s just it – having spent all of the first novel finding the situation where Don could see a family, see a loving relationship with someone, let alone someone so different as Rosie, the relationship now becomes so rocky and threatened and as a reader I had a lot invested in it. Rosie is made out to be a bad person, she engineered the pregnancy, threw Don in the deep end and then closes off to his attempts to help. I struggled to suspend disbelief that having chosen to marry and have a life with Don, a man whose quirks she was well aware, Rosie would turn her back on him almost immediately and Don would be so oblivious and their friends so able to give advice but do little else to prevent what seemed to be coming.
I think what really got me as a reader was that I felt a bit deceived by the happy ending of the first novel – I didn’t want to believe a baby would ruin the balance so completely, despite so much evidence being presented to support it. I wanted Don and Rosie to be happy and I felt cheated when Rosie especially didn’t act as I felt she should and alternatively angry that Simison had made her feel so much like the bad guy.
Ultimately this book just didn’t have the freshness of the first and revisiting the characters ruined the picture in my head of what I thought they could be. This is perhaps as much a fault of my own as it was the authors but all the same I just couldn’t enjoy the ride like I hoped.
Book Conversation Points:
Did your feelings change towards the characters in this sequel? Why?
Did you feel any one character was more culpable?
What are you thoughts on the psychology of the novel?
Don lends his talents to the Lesbian Mothers Project – do you think science has a place in the role of family relationships?
Next month we will be reading The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson