As I read this book, I could imagine myself crushed up in seat 38C, with my economy overhead light on, engines rumbling in my ears, my eyes scratchy, skin dry, and still 7 hours to go as we pass across Singapore. The Rosie Effect is just the sort of book you want for a long haul flight. It’s humourous, has a plot, some endearing characters and isn’t overly taxing. It would similarly suit a lounge chair in the sun or a short hospital stay. This isn’t damning by faint praise – not every book has its place, but I’m clear that this one does.
The crux of the book is that the protagonist has Asperger’s. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is the last, and now that I think about it, the only book I’ve read that features this condition; for that alone it was worth the read. It’s also an excellent plot device as our hero Don Tillman – an Australian living in New York – finds himself in all sort of bother as a result of his Asperger’s. He is arrested due to strange behaviour near a children’s playground, becomes involved in a lesbian science project, and causes the abandonment of a passenger flight due to his suspected terrorist intentions. He is often bemused by those around him referencing the film Rain Main:
“Rain Man! I had seen the film. I did not identify in any way with Rain Man, who was inarticulate, dependent, and unemployable. A society of Rain Men would be dysfunctional. A society of Don Tillmans would be efficient, safe, and pleasant for all of us.”
The book is unusual as its written by a man, about a man yet the target audience is clearly women. Perhaps it’s for this reason, but I found the female characters a little more hysterical and little less sympathetic than the male. Stereotypically, the men are emotionally a bit stunted and more ‘logical’ in the way they approach their relationships; the women more highly strung and less predictable. All the same, I imagine that women readers would recognise Don Tillman’s autistic evaluations of his marriage to Rosie, and see elements of their own relationships reflected back through the central couple.
The writing style did take a bit of adjusting to. Don is the narrator and therefore the narrative unfolds in the stilted and formal manner in which he speaks. However, as the character became more familiar to me this was less and less an obstacle and ultimately, a clever way of letting Don communicate his interpretation of the world around him.
As a test of how much I enjoyed The Rose Effect, I asked myself if I would read its predecessor The Rosie Project. The answer was yes I will…. but I’m going to save it for my next long haul flight.