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Forum Home > Book reviews > The Rosie Project, a novel by Graeme Simsion

Luther Gwaza
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Reflections on “The Rosie Project” novel by Graeme Simsion

 This is an excellent romantic-comedy novel that will award you an enjoyable laugh. For sure, I did laugh out loud throughout reading this book. Thank God I was alone, otherwise if I were in a public place for example, a bus, library, or airport, people would have concluded I was one of those nut guys – or the early signs of psychosis. Fortunately, I do not imagine myself as one.

If you do anything unconventional a label, often offensive, is attached to you - to me this is the central theme in this novel around the central character, Profession Don Tilman – “a social misfit”. The novel is also enthralling, I ordered this book, after I read a review on Bill Gates website, his wife had recommended it to him. Anyway for me, it was out of curiosity that anything else, to find out the type of books that Bill Gates read and what was particularly interesting with this novel. I was not disappointed – once I opened the first page, I only stopped when I had read the last page. Providentially I was alone; otherwise this would have gone down as antisocial behavior.

The book opens with Don giving a lecture on behalf of his friend on Asperger’s syndrome, the condition that he possible unknowingly suffers from. He sums the syndrome in a few words – “Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organization extreme or obsessive organization to the last detail including the minute”, “intense” focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment “ or lack of emotion as one parent in the audience puts it”. The underlines are my additions for emphasis. Needless to say, you ought to read the book for yourself and I guarantee, you will not be disappointed. – I wasn’t, nonetheless I maybe wrong – concerning you!

Who fits the “defined” social standard?

I find this question throughout the book as the author examines the behavior of the principal character, which commonly will be labeled a “social misfit”, or unsuitable. The antithesis to this is Don’s “Wife Project”, a scientifically validated questionnaire to find the right wife that fits the bill. Obviously, this never worked out as the “normal” people in Don’s life pointed that it is not possible to find that flawless person with the correct boxes checked, and occasionally even if it appears there is one, there is something that will be off the mark. No one is impeccable – by whatever social or human standard.

Similarly, the bible states “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:23 (NIV) Moreover, Jesus illustrated this with the women caught in adultery and called for anyone without sign to cast the first stone. Needless to say no one did – each turned away in shame.

None fits the bill in one-way or the other; each one has faults similar to Gene’s (Don’s best friend, who considers himself “normal”) obsession with having sexual experience with every national though he was married. Eventually people pretend that all is splendid – when in fact, we should learn to accept each other and avoid pretending. I have been debating this issue with my wife several times, when it appears that society expects you to uphold what is loosely “defined” as social standard. Ordinarily, when this is practiced to the extreme akin to religion, you will find that in general, people are extraordinary actors – seemingly to fit the bill. If you behave otherwise, you are considered a social misfit or a similar label is attached to your name.

The “Aspies Rule”

I presume we have, or should have, if not already, have Asperger’s syndrome. We need to be organized now and then to accomplish tasks hence diaries for some. Innovative thinking and questioning everything that has been taught to be the norm is one characteristic that we need and is necessary for human advancement, otherwise imagine walking around with a piece of animal skin around the waist, no airplane or more so, the phone and the internet? At times, this is where misconceptions for instance with religion or anything, which is incorrectly perceived to be based unquestionable belief seem to fail us.

One of the best moments in the book is the jacket incident – Don was denied entry to a luxury restaurant as his “jacket” did not fit the bill of what was required despite him presenting the arguments he considered relevant, for instance the definition of a jacket in the Oxford English dictionary, and the superiority of his jacket compared to the official’s woolen equivalent. This is what society dishes out now and again, unnecessary obstructions meant to convey a sense of superiority when in fact it’s a ploy for irrational discrimination or undue pressure to force people to behave in a certain way. Often we live with this and proceed with the flow, until occasionally one encounters the “Aspies” that are considered disruptive to the social norm.

More often than not, people with “Aspies” characteristics drive innovation – defying the norm and occasionally introducing what people now popular refer to as “disruptive innovation”. Indeed, there is growing recognition of this type of persona – these are the people who introduce novel ways of thinking and innovation to the society, often by defying societal norms and values and venturing into the unknown.

The other interesting perspective on the “jacket incident” was the fact that the restaurant kept a supply of jackets to rescue potential patrons wearing what was considered inappropriate dress code. Don’s observation:

I did not add that the need to maintain such an inventory was surely evidence of their failure to communicate the rule clearly, and that it would be more efficient to improve the wording or abandon the rule altogether”.

Sounds familiar?

I had a recent incident in which my wife was coerced by several means to pay for something she had originally indicated she was not able to and had not committed. Consider people setting a standard that they obviously are not able to meet and not wanting to face the truth they coerce, in fact force people to comply. I find that behavior unacceptable – akin to forcing patrons to “wear an item of public clothing of dubious cleanliness” a vain attempt to uphold a stupid rule. It is unfortunate that we often tag along with this in an effort to preserve a particular social persona – the consequence is often disastrous, often not immediate though surely imminent.

What than shall we do?

Occasionally, we find ourselves in situations that require us to proceed with the flow or to modify those fundamental aspects in our lives to grow. We often miss such opportunities by failing to adjust and to be flexible and to withstand risks – relying on “gut feeling” and dumping the rational judgment. Ultimately this was the Rosie Project as Don made those fundamental adjustments in his life to win Rosie’s love.

We do not necessary be obliged to transform our identity, nevertheless we definitely should learn and adapt as we grow. Oprah recommends that when in such situations; always trust your gut feeling, you will be rarely wrong. Rosie did unsuitable in relation to the Don’s profile of the “ideal” wife – “she was a disorganized, mathematically illiterate, ridiculous food requirement, and a smoker”. Who is not? – Each person has his or her peculiarity. However, irrational it was, Don followed his gut feeling – often in life we should make such or apparent irrational decisions. As a rational person, Don  carefully analysed the situation including a self introspection leading to in depth self awareness. 

In conclusion, it is notable to learn frequent introspections and reflections – this is imperative to critically review oneself and prevailing circumstances. An awareness of oneself including flaws is a critical attribute for those that wish to scale greater heights – especially social innovators. Unfortunately there is no substitute for self reflection: it is an indispensable compone of life. 


Luther Gwaza
Paruware Trust
6281 Nicoz Diamond Road, Zimre Park

Skype name: lgwaza

November 9, 2014 at 6:15 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 1

Thank you for the recommendation. I really enjoyed reading it. I also couldn't put it down. I really liked the aspect of how although he tried to approach the challenges in his life logically, when it came to it, he was able to take some major risks and leave his comfort zone. The story was wonderfully told.

December 5, 2014 at 3:17 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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