Friday, February 21, 2014

The Rosie Project: It's like Bringing Up Baby...if Baby were an absentee father

Don Tillman is a tall, fit, intelligent 39-year-old associate professor and expert geneticist . . . and he is looking for a wife. He has exactly two friends: Gene, who is on a mission to sleep with a woman from every country in the world (he has a wall map; the wall map has pins), and his wife Claudia, who is not entirely pleased with Gene's enthusiastic pursuit of this lofty goal.

Social interactions are not Don's strong suit. He regularly misjudges the situation and almost always says or does the wrong thing. But he throws himself fearlessly into whatever he thinks the situations calls for, and we love him for that.

“I took her in the standard jive hold
that I had practised on the skeleton..."

He eats according to a Standardized Meal Plan (the same seven meals every week) and follows a strict schedule, and between work and practicing aikido and cleaning the bathroom he doesn’t have much time to meet women. Claudia sets him up, but despite Don’s enthusiasm (or because of it), the dates don't go well. Don just can’t make himself care about the same things other people care about.
“In evaluating Elizabeth’s suitability as a potential partner—someone to provide intellectual stimulation, to share activities with, perhaps even to breed with—Claudia’s first concern was my reaction to her choice of glasses frames. . . . This is the world I have to live in.”
So he decides to take matters into his own hands and designs a no-nonsense compatibility questionnaire that will quickly eliminate unsuitable matches and reveal the woman who should logically be his wife—the one who answers every question exactly right. SCIENCE.

But then Rosie, a free-spirited "barmaid" who defies every item on The Wife Project questionnaire, walks into Don’s office.

Rosie's arrival sets in motion a series of events that revolve around the search for her unknown biological father, a task for which Don is unusually qualified. Needless to say, she completely upsets his schedule of activities . . . and also deepens his relationship with alcohol.

As far as my personal commentary goes, let me first say that I wasted a good portion of this book picturing Don as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory when I should have been picturing Cary Grant (the author said so, but then he hid it all the way back in the acknowledgments like an ass). Never miss an opportunity to picture Cary Grant, is what I say.

But the Sheldon connection is a natural one, because Don’s voice as he narrates could be that of a highly intelligent space alien trying to master the art of natural human behavior. And his missteps and misconceptions in this area are the main source of humor in the book.
“I realized that I had behaved in stereotypical male fashion, drinking beer in a bar, watching television, and talking about sports. It is generally known that women have a negative attitude to such behavior. I asked Rosie if I had offended her.” 
Thanks to Emily, from As the Crowe Flies and Reads, for being the first domino in what is sure to be a long line of recommendations for this book.


  1. Yay, another person to love this book! It was fantastic on audio, and I already re-read it in hardcover... I just wanted to highlight the whole damn thing for the awesome quotes and funny bits.

  2. The Rosie Fan Club grows and grows. I even sent a copy to my mom in Florida (which she doesn't yet know; SURPRISE, MOM).

  3. Yay for Don and Rosie! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one, too. I don't know much about Big Bang THeory from the two episodes I've seen of it, but Sheldon was an asshole. Don, certainly not!

    The phrase "standard jive hold" will forever more hold sway over me. And that darn skeleton sure got a LOT of practice in with Don for a LOT of things, eh?

    And now can you imagine, in addition to Cary Grant, Don as Benedict Cumberbatch?

  4. YAY for more Rosie Project love (as if there could be any other reaction).

    "But he throws himself fearlessly into whatever he thinks the situations calls for, and we love him for that." I love this point because YES. Him learning every possible drink to ever be made was the best thing.

    I think I need to re-read this so I can picture Don as Cary Grant.

  5. I'm the next domino to tumble; thank you for the Cary Grant heads up so I can visualize this correctly ;)

  6. My default mental casting for every role is Benedict Cumberbatch. As far as I'm concerned, he can play Rosie, too, while he's at it.

  7. He's just so damn good at everything. *I* want to be an expert cocktail-maker who can also do karate. But with social skills...would also be good.

  8. Yes, learn from my mistakes! And may Mr. Grant and his rakish smile be with you always.

  9. I feel like I love this book already because everyone I love loves it. But I should *probably* read it before I make that judgement... Probably. Never fear, it is in my pile of 'books to read imminently' so YAY.

    Thanks for the Cary Grant though. That will be some brain picture... Yum.


    Ok, so what is that first gif from? Because Want to Watch. Second, of course I'm going to read this. Because you've all read it. And I bought it.

    Also BRINGING UP BABY IS THE GREATEST and "Ohhhh you've torn your coat."

  11. Of COURSE, Monkey Business. Why do I keep thinking that movie's in color?


  12. Y'know...I don't think I've actually seen that.

  13. As long as Lestrade plays Gene, I'm happy with this arrangement. AS WE HAVE DISCUSSED.

  14. YES Cary Grant. /fans self

    I think it's great how the book implied from paragraph one that Don has Aspergers, but never *says* it. And how Rosie is like, "here is how to be a human, you strange thing," but still gets frustrated and annoyed with him.

    I have to go write my post about this now.

  15. Any old excuse to throw away some time looking at pictures of Cary Grant, I will take it.

    I really liked the subtlety with which the clinical aspect was treated, too. It was obvious but not. Like when Gene had him take over the talk on Asperger's because it was something he thought he might find interesting. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY, GENE?

  16. Probably because I posted it on Friday after you had already left work? I try not to DO that, but sometimes I do it anyway.

    Hrm...that first GIF I believe is from "Monkey Business," with Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. And here's a DIFFERENT movie where he dances silly with Ingrid Bergman (

    I LOVE BRINGING UP BABY THE MOST (and The Philadelphia Story, obvs).

  17. You can totally trust us that it's good...but you might want to read it for your own enjoyment. (I think I was recommending this to people before I read it. And I was right.)