Leeds Book Club has been participating in the Arts and Minds Network‘s ongoing project on raising awareness of mental health issues. We met up this week to discuss the latest book in our series!
Venue: Crowd of Favours
Date: 15th July 2014
***** SPOILERS *****
***** SPOILERS *****
***** SPOILERS *****
BLURB (from Amazon)
‘I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’
‘Tell me something I don’t know . . .’
Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman. A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?
The Rosie Project
All in all, we admired Don Tillman as a protagonist. While we (and he) recognise that he views the world from a different perspective; at no point did we ever feel like he was the object. When we laughed, we laughed with him – not at him.
Indeed, there were certain aspects of his housekeeping that we were in envy of – the structure essential to his well being was very well depicted. And attractive. Similarly – we had a interesting side chat about his views regarding pictures/paintings on walls – once you become familiar with them, you stop seeing them – so why bother? (I can’t let this one go to be honest – I have this poorly articulated thought that you don’t hang things on walls purely for your own enjoyment – they are to be shared with everyone you invite in…assuming you want to invite people in!)
Of particular interest to me was how atypical Don was from the traditional Rom-Com hero, yet despite his less usual traits – he is unmistakably the hero. Fictional heroes – particularly in films – are rarely depicted as other than tropes. Those with differing abilities, mental health challenges and so on are almost invisible on the silver screen so to have a leading man like Don was very refreshing.
Regarding his position under the spectrum ‘umbrella’, we considered autism and aspergers syndrome and whether it mattered which Don had – especially when viewed in consideration with how high functioning he is. Which obviously enough led to a quick chat about labelling – the value of knowing what/if any diagnosis you may have versus living without ever having a label attached to your behaviour. We all of us hesitated to assess whether the conditions were depicted accurately though it certainly did resonate with other information we’ve come across.
One of the other interesting aspects was that while Don has certain obvious hurdles to overcome, so does every other character. No one is depicted at having a total grasp of every aspect of their life – Rosie’s life is almost off the rails – she has started to believe her own lies. Gene and Claudia have serious marital, trust and communication issues…and no diagnosis was ever needed. More importantly – from a readers point of view, it all fit together beautifully, providing a fully realised world, populated by realistic characters.
One of our members expressed a little concern that Don’s eventual realisation of affection for Rosie didn’t seem to sit well with his earlier highly routined and structured behaviours – it was difficult to visualise him breaking his own rules when we had seen him mis-read situations (the flirty lady in the initial chapters); struggle to read emotions and as a result seek second opinions from Gene and Claudia. His comfort with Rosie had stemmed from his removal of her from consideration as a potential romantic partner – the ending seemed to contradict that with his willingness to be so flexible. It was a well reasoned point and half of us stared at the member with open fish mouths, mumbling something about ‘but…romantic…sweet…darn it…you’re not wrong…but…’.
Doe eyed freaks, the lot of em
Course after we’d dissected Don’s potentially out of character behaviour, it was time for Ruby…sorry Rosie to take the stand.
While in the main we did genuinely enjoy her story and arc, it was impossible not to recognise that she contained certain Manic Pixie Dream Girl qualities.
Unpredictable, emotional, scatty and Most Likely to Appear holding a cigarette and/or a glass of wine, Rosie turns Don’s neat, organised and structured life upside down in a…dare I say it…predictable turn of events.
And yet, despite all that, Rosie exists within these pages as a…well a normal woman – no more irascible or enchanting than the rest of us. Don sees her as strange and odd…but then again he sees almost everyone in this way. Rosie is far more than a mere collection of quirks and mannerisms. It is her back story – The Father Project – that provides the structure for Don’s journey and her motivation that keeps propelling them forward.
“It was really important that Rosie wasn’t just a manic pixie dream girl, a cardboard cutout, that she wasn’t just there to serve him,” Simsion says. “That took a lot of work.”
Written initially as a screenplay
*Note – we had one Spinal Tap score – an 11/10
Details of the Sequel
The Rosie Effect will be released in September 2014!
With the Wife Project complete, Don settles into a new job and married life in New York. But it’s not long before certain events are taken out of his control and it’s time to embark on a new project . . .
As Don tries to get to grips with the requirements of starting a family, his unusual research style gets him into trouble. To make matters worse, Don has invited his closest friend to stay with them, but Gene is not exactly the best model for marital happiness.
As Don’s life with Rosie continues to be unpredictable, he needs to remember that emotional support is just as important as practical expertise.
You can follow Prof Don Tillman on twitter