Friday, 26 September 2014

Woefully Ineffective: A Review of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

NOTE: There are spoilers throughout so don’t read this unless you want the book to be spoiled for you (though I would argue it was already spoiled). But if you’re just looking for a yay or nay from me, it is most certainly a HELL NO!

After the success of The Rosie Project last year, it was inevitable that we’d get a sequel, though so soon was surprising. In The Rosie Project we followed the adventures of Don Tillman, a genetics professor (with probable Aspergers) who went looking for a wife and found one in Rosie, who drew him into her own quest to find her unknown biological father. 

In The Rosie Effect, Rosie is pregnant and Don is going to be a father. I’m going to stop there because this relates to my biggest problem with the book. There are numerous problems with this novel - in fact, I can’t name a single positive about it - and everything about it totally stinks but my biggest issue with this novel is the total lack of a plot. 

See how I summarised The Rosie Project - it sounds like a real novel right, with a story? Then see how I tried to summarise The Rosie Effect - one line about Rosie being pregnant - and stopped. Because there is no plot to this book and that’s why it’s such a tedious read. 

Don and Rosie are in New York, Rosie’s pursuing her degree, Don’s doing his genetics stuff, Gene, Don’s philandering colleague, joins them because his wife kicked him out. This isn’t plot, it’s just setup. Don’s friends with a guy who installs refrigeration systems and happens to have done a big job for an old rock drummer called George. And this brings me to the next problem with the book - zero conflict. 

There is never a single problem in the “story” that Don doesn’t deal with easily, or Simsion magically solves for Don. Don and Rosie need a place to stay? Well, Don happens to know a guy who knows a rock drummer who is obsessed with beer and has an entire apartment below his attached to his beer cellar - they could stay in the spacious new apartment for free and Don could monitor the temperature of the beer for him! Well isn’t that convenient! 

Simsion contrives numerous “obstacles” for Don to overcome that essentially end with “and the person realised it was a stupid novelistic contrivance designed to eat up pages before waving Don on”. For instance, a social worker - based on nothing more than Don’s unknowing ordering of an unecological dish - sets out to cause problems for him, threatening to deport him being as he is an Aussie living in America. 

This allows Simsion to insert a well-used sitcom trope of having someone impersonating someone else, in this case one of Don’s friends pretending to be Rosie because Don doesn’t want to cause Rosie any extra stress that might harm the baby. How does that storyline end? Eh, turns out it doesn’t really matter. Social worker admits to behaving irrationally, falls for Gene, the end. 

Arguably the worst offender out of these contrivances is the fact that, in the third act, Simsion realised he didn’t have any dramatic way of building to the finale because he hadn’t bothered with any story up to that point. So he invents some nonsense about Rosie suddenly thinking that Don won’t make a good husband, so she decides to leave him and go back to Australia. It’s so awkward and out of the blue, it’s staggering - really? We’re supposed to believe this crap out of nowhere?!

This leads to another “really?” moment when Don runs to the airport to profess his love for Rosie. I couldn’t believe the cheesiest of all cheeseball scenes was this book’s finale, but it was. The guy running to the airport at the last minute to tell the girl he loved her. Absolutely horrendous. And then what happens? Rosie realises that oh yeah, suddenly leaving Don didn’t really make sense and she still loved him and it was all for nothing. 

Then there are the character problems of this book. Don, for example, is never explicitly said to have Aspergers or Autism, even if he sounds like Data from Star Trek all of the time (“Greetings!”). He can’t identify facial features, he doesn’t understand human emotions, most of the time doesn’t even seem to possess them, he looks at people and instantly calculates their BMIs, he doesn’t even understand certain social situations as being inappropriate, such as a man with a camera on his own sitting on a park bench taking pictures of children in the playground - but he’s definitely not autistic!! 

This is another example of Simsion’s shoddy writing. Don is autistic and/or has Aspergers - he’s somewhere on the autistic spectrum anyway - but he also reacts like a human when he needs to. In other words, Simsion wants to have his cake and eat it. 

But at least Don seems like a character and perhaps Gene too. The rest of the cast? There’s a trio of scientists Don labels B1, B2, and B3 because they all have names beginning with B, but also because he can’t identify faces (he’s definitely not autistic or anything!!) - and that’s how I feel all of the characters should’ve been labelled, rather than given names, because they don’t seem like characters at all. Most damningly, Rosie herself is a two-dimensional placeholder character - she’s the stock pregnant woman. She doesn’t seem like a real person, or distinctively her own person, she’s merely The Pregnant Woman in the book. That is, when she’s not behaving like a total bitch in total contrast to her character in the first book but maybe that’s the hormones or something?

Those are the main problems with The Rosie Effect though really there are too many faults all the way through this to list. And it’s labelled a romantic comedy? I suppose the romance is there, generic though it may be (airport scene!), but comedy? I never laughed once, nor did it seem that there was anything to laugh at. Was the fact that Don was photographing kids in the park, unaware that this made him look like a pedo, meant to be hilarious? Because to me it just underlined the fact that this guy needed a carer more than anything (but he’s definitely not autistic!!). 

And it’s boring - my god, this book is boring! All of the problems - the lack of story, the dull characters, the absence of humour, the contrivances and cliches - compound massively on the book, one after the other, until it’s near unbearable to read! It’s so poorly written with zero imagination or skill that it reads like a first draft than the final finished product. 

In the end, it’s very clear that The Rosie Effect was rushed out because everyone involved wanted to capitalise on the financial success of The Rosie Project. Except the sequel is a charmless, humourless chore to struggle through - an unending, uninteresting slog through totally artless, unengaging garbage.

The Rosie Effect

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