The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion: The Last Volume of the Trilogy Recovers most of the Magic of The Rosie Project

The Rosie ResultThe Rosie Result

by Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman, #3Hardcover, 376 pg.
Text Publishing, 2019
Read: July 16 – 19, 2019

So I loved The Rosie Project Simsion’s tale of a geneticist who is probably on the Autism spectrum, but has never been diagnosed, setting out to find a romantic partner in the most scientific way he can. It was charming, funny, and hit all the right emotional notes. If you haven’t read it, go do so now. The sequel, The Rosie Effect, about the early days of Don and Rosie’s marriage had a lot of the same traits but fell short on the story and heart. Which gave me a lot of pause when I saw a third volume was coming out a few months ago. But curiosity got the better of me, and I picked up a copy from the Library.

Phew! Simsion’s remembered what made Project so successful. It’s not quite as good, but it’s close enough for me.

Don and Rosie move back to Australia after a decade-plus in NYC. He’s returned to his university, Rosie’s got a major research position. They didn’t consult their son about the move, that’s causing all the problems associated with someone on the verge of adolescence being moved thousands of miles away from everything he’s ever known. To complicate things, Hudson’s a lot more like his dad than even Don realized. Incredibly intelligent, opinionated, precise, overly literal, socially awkward and stubborn. Throw a kid like that into a new school, new country, with no friends or teachers who know him—especially when he’s unhappy—and you have a recipe for disaster.

Which is precisely what Don and Rosie have on their hands. Hudson’s school is on the verge of expelling him but is willing to make allowances for someone diagnosed with Autism—while taking them out of the mainstream classes and educational path. Neither of his parents are all that interested in that course and begin working with Hudson on ways to fit in.

To add to that, Don’s fallen victim to the outrage culture of contemporary universities by answering a question about skin tone straight-forward and matter-of-factly with no thought of political/social connotations of his words. It was, of course, caught on video and has put his entire career in jeopardy. Rosie is dealing with a boss who seems to favor another member of the team she’s nominally leading and blatant misogyny from the boss and that team-member.

Don decides to take a leave of absence from his job (handing a victory to those wanting his head, but protecting his job so he can return after the dust settles) and sets out to help Hudson in a strategic fashion like he had done for himself on various fronts. With help from family and friends, he sets out to help Hudson gain some friends, become able to participate in group sports, dress like a normal kid, and essentially fit in.

There are lots of ups and downs along the way—Hudson does grow, but not in all the ways Don wants or expects. Don does, too—even making a friend who’s into homeopathy and against vaccines (even if he’s committed to showing her the error of her ways).

I do wish Rosie had been a bigger presence in this book, that’s my biggest complaint, really. Not just because her name is in the title, but she’s Hudson’s mom and Don’s wife. She should’ve had more to do in the story rather than being relegated (for reasons the story allows for) to a supporting character.

The basic theme of the book is about embracing who you are and finding a balance between fitting in with society and compromising who you are—if you’re on the Spectrum or not. In addition to having a lot of humor and heart, the overall tone is hopeful, oddly optimistic. It’s a great, heartwarming read that will remind readers why they loved the character of Don Tillman and will provoke a lot of thought while providing a great amount of entertainment.

—–

4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge Humor Reading Challenge 2019

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Pub Day Repost: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

The Best of Adam SharpThe Best of Adam Sharp

by Graeme Simsion
eARC, 352 pg.
St. Martin’s Press, 2017
Read: April 17 – 18, 2017

If my life prior to February 15, 2012, had been a song, it might have been “Hey Jude,” a simple piano tune, taking my sad and sorry adolescence and making it better. In the middle, it would pick up—better and better— for a few moments foreshadowing something extraordinary. And then: just na-na-na-na, over and over, pleasant enough, but mainly because it evoked what had gone before.

That’s the first paragraph, and I’m betting 80% of reviewers will be quoting that — how can you not? You get a sense of Adam, his musical taste, how much music means to him/the way he thinks — and you get the novel’s mood. In the next few pages, you get an idea what Adam’s life is like in February 2012 — his relationship, his relationship with his mother, the nostalgia (and maybe more) he feels towards a country he lived in while he was young and his first great (greatest?) love.

Then we end the introduction with this paragraph that pushes us into the novel:

No matter now. I would soon have more immediate matters to occupy my mind. Later that day, as I continued my engagement with the past, scouring the Internet for music trivia in the hope of a moment of appreciation at the pub quiz, a cosmic DJ—perhaps the ghost of my father—would lift the needle on the na-na-na-nas of “Hey Jude,”say, “Nothing new happening here,”and turn it to the flip side.

“Revolution.”

On the flip side is an email from The One Who Got Away (“got” isn’t necessarily the best term — “slipped away”, “blindly walked away from”, “made the greatest mistake of your life with” — come closer). Angelina was a night-time soap actress that Adam had an affair with while he lived in Australia while working on a contract job in 1989. Over the next couple of chapters Adam reminisces about his time with Angelina — it’s a heckuva love story. It’s an even better doomed-love story since we all know it’s coming to an end, and he’s able to tell it that way.

This email is the first communication she’s attempted since she informed Adam that she was getting married before he had a chance to come back.

We also get a compressed history of Adam and Claire (his might-as-well-be wife), their 15+ year relationship — the ups, downs, and obvious commitment. Even if the romance is largely gone, there’s something strong under-girding their bond. Right? Maybe? Probably? And I do mean compressed — their decade and change is given less space than the few months Angelina and Adam have. We also see what’s going on in the Spring of 2012 with their relationship, and how this new email correspondence fits in with Adam’s life.

Part II of the book is focused on what happens when Adam and Angelina reconnect in person for a few days months later. Which is really all I can say about that. Well, it takes almost the same amount of space as the first part (ecopy, so I can’t do page counts, so these are just estimates) — so it’s obviously a lot more detailed.

I loved Part I — totally. The feel of it, seeing the changes for the better that Adam goes through thanks to the confidence boost that emailing Angelina gives him. Watching his relationship with Claire improve at the same time. All the while enjoying the 1989 story, too, sharing that feeling of nostalgia and more with him. It’s just so well done.

But Part II? I had serious problems with. I cannot detail them without ruining the book for you all. But people just don’t act the way most (if not all) of our primary characters do here. There are just too many psychological, emotional, spiritual and moral problems with what happens, how people react (both in the heat of the moment and in the cool light of day) — people, real people, just can’t do this and survive in any meaningful fashion.

We also do meet Angelina’s husband, Charlie, and I have so many conflicting opinions about him — on the one hand he appears to be good guy, generous, gracious (and other positive adjectives that don’t start with “g”) . . . but he’s dishonest with everyone (possibly including himself), manipulative, cold, calculating . . . I want to state that he’s not physically or mentally abusive, because my description of him almost sounds like it. Things would be less murky if he was.

Angelina is equally troubling — both in how she acts toward Charlie, her children and Adam. I’m not incredibly certain that I’m pleased with the way she treats herself (or if she’s true to her chosen vocation or character). I can understand a lot of how Adam comports himself, but at some point, I needed him to call the whole thing off (anyone else could’ve, but it wasn’t in their character at the moment).

The whole thing at the point became the car wreck you pass by on the Interstate and try to not gawk at.

I can’t find the exact quotation, but Nora Ephron said something about Sleepless in Seattle not being a love story, but a story about movie love (Rosie O’Donnell’s character says something similar in the film). About the only way I can handle huge portions of this book is thinking of it in similar terms — Part II isn’t about actual love, romance/commitment between two human beings — but it’s about love in fiction, romance/commitment between two fictional characters. If I think of Adam and Angelina (and Charlie and Claire) as actual people, I feel a mix of pity and repugnance for all involved (well, no repugnance for one of them, but I’ll leave it at that) — along with a strong desire to get a pastor and/or psychologist to their doorsteps. But if I think of them as fictional characters — which, I guess is what they are, as much as one doesn’t like to admit that — I can feel that revulsion and sympathy and just hope that they’re able to have decent lives.

But the writing? Simsion’s craft here is what kept me going through my distaste — and what’s going to compel me to give it a higher rating than I initially thought I would. Everything I thought/hoped he was capable of after The Rosie Project is on full display here — and, honestly, Adam Sharp is probably a better novel than it’s predecessors. Yes, there are comic moments, but this isn’t as funny as the Rosie books, so don’t look for a similar experience. But the emotional palate is richer, more varied — deeper.

The use of music throughout — as Adam’s refuge and outlet, the way that he bonds with people, and the songs used for various purposes — is just dynamite. Well, almost dynamite — Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” rather than Marc Cohn’s? Really? (both in the playlist and novel) One of the problems with musicians in novels who write their own material (Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa, Andy Abramowitz’s Tremble, Hornby’s Tucker Crowe, etc.) who use other’s songs, is that you have to imagine the music, imagine the skill, imagine the feeling. But with Adam (or Doyle’s The Commitments) you can take a shortcut through that and know exactly what feelings, sounds, rhythms, and so on are to be conjured up (Simsion gives us the exact album version sometimes so we can’t get it wrong). I’m sure there are articles to be written about the music here and how it serves, propels, shapes the plot — but I don’t have that kind of time.

Oh, I can’t forget to mention — the official playlist for this is killer. I wish I’d have had an Internet connection available while I was reading it, I’m sure it’d have been a bonus. It’s definitely helping while I write — but there’s some good stuff there for just good listening.

I was genuinely excited to read this book — while I wasn’t especially taken with The Rosie Effect, I loved The Rosie Project — I’m pretty sure it made my Top 10 that year, and I recommended it to everyone I could think of online and in person. So when a new book by Simsion was announced — and not another Rosie book — I preordered it, and jumped on the opportunity when I saw it on NetGalley. And then that Introduction hooked me hard. Part I was wonderful. But man . . . I just couldn’t handle Part II. Which leaves me in a pickle when it comes to this post, you know?

I admired this book more than I enjoyed it — though I need to stress I really enjoyed parts of it. I’d love to heartily recommend this, I wish I could — but I can only do so with reservations. There’s so much I object to going on in these pages that I can’t, while I can respect Simsion’s work — and I know this book achieved everything he wanted. I’ll give it 4 Stars on merit, not my own enjoyment.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

The Best of Adam SharpThe Best of Adam Sharp

by Graeme Simsion

eARC, 352 pg.
St. Martin’s Press, 2017

Read: April 17 – 18, 2017

If my life prior to February 15, 2012, had been a song, it might have been “Hey Jude,” a simple piano tune, taking my sad and sorry adolescence and making it better. In the middle, it would pick up—better and better— for a few moments foreshadowing something extraordinary. And then: just na-na-na-na, over and over, pleasant enough, but mainly because it evoked what had gone before.

That’s the first paragraph, and I’m betting 80% of reviewers will be quoting that — how can you not? You get a sense of Adam, his musical taste, how much music means to him/the way he thinks — and you get the novel’s mood. In the next few pages, you get an idea what Adam’s life is like in February 2012 — his relationship, his relationship with his mother, the nostalgia (and maybe more) he feels towards a country he lived in while he was young and his first great (greatest?) love.

Then we end the introduction with this paragraph that pushes us into the novel:

No matter now. I would soon have more immediate matters to occupy my mind. Later that day, as I continued my engagement with the past, scouring the Internet for music trivia in the hope of a moment of appreciation at the pub quiz, a cosmic DJ—perhaps the ghost of my father—would lift the needle on the na-na-na-nas of “Hey Jude,”say, “Nothing new happening here,”and turn it to the flip side.

“Revolution.”

On the flip side is an email from The One Who Got Away (“got” isn’t necessarily the best term — “slipped away”, “blindly walked away from”, “made the greatest mistake of your life with” — come closer). Angelina was a night-time soap actress that Adam had an affair with while he lived in Australia while working on a contract job in 1989. Over the next couple of chapters Adam reminisces about his time with Angelina — it’s a heckuva love story. It’s an even better doomed-love story since we all know it’s coming to an end, and he’s able to tell it that way.

This email is the first communication she’s attempted since she informed Adam that she was getting married before he had a chance to come back.

We also get a compressed history of Adam and Claire (his might-as-well-be wife), their 15+ year relationship — the ups, downs, and obvious commitment. Even if the romance is largely gone, there’s something strong under-girding their bond. Right? Maybe? Probably? And I do mean compressed — their decade and change is given less space than the few months Angelina and Adam have. We also see what’s going on in the Spring of 2012 with their relationship, and how this new email correspondence fits in with Adam’s life.

Part II of the book is focused on what happens when Adam and Angelina reconnect in person for a few days months later. Which is really all I can say about that. Well, it takes almost the same amount of space as the first part (ecopy, so I can’t do page counts, so these are just estimates) — so it’s obviously a lot more detailed.

I loved Part I — totally. The feel of it, seeing the changes for the better that Adam goes through thanks to the confidence boost that emailing Angelina gives him. Watching his relationship with Claire improve at the same time. All the while enjoying the 1989 story, too, sharing that feeling of nostalgia and more with him. It’s just so well done.

But Part II? I had serious problems with. I cannot detail them without ruining the book for you all. But people just don’t act the way most (if not all) of our primary characters do here. There are just too many psychological, emotional, spiritual and moral problems with what happens, how people react (both in the heat of the moment and in the cool light of day) — people, real people, just can’t do this and survive in any meaningful fashion.

We also do meet Angelina’s husband, Charlie, and I have so many conflicting opinions about him — on the one hand he appears to be good guy, generous, gracious (and other positive adjectives that don’t start with “g”) . . . but he’s dishonest with everyone (possibly including himself), manipulative, cold, calculating . . . I want to state that he’s not physically or mentally abusive, because my description of him almost sounds like it. Things would be less murky if he was.

Angelina is equally troubling — both in how she acts toward Charlie, her children and Adam. I’m not incredibly certain that I’m pleased with the way she treats herself (or if she’s true to her chosen vocation or character). I can understand a lot of how Adam comports himself, but at some point, I needed him to call the whole thing off (anyone else could’ve, but it wasn’t in their character at the moment).

The whole thing at the point became the car wreck you pass by on the Interstate and try to not gawk at.

I can’t find the exact quotation, but Nora Ephron said something about Sleepless in Seattle not being a love story, but a story about movie love (Rosie O’Donnell’s character says something similar in the film). About the only way I can handle huge portions of this book is thinking of it in similar terms — Part II isn’t about actual love, romance/commitment between two human beings — but it’s about love in fiction, romance/commitment between two fictional characters. If I think of Adam and Angelina (and Charlie and Claire) as actual people, I feel a mix of pity and repugnance for all involved (well, no repugnance for one of them, but I’ll leave it at that) — along with a strong desire to get a pastor and/or psychologist to their doorsteps. But if I think of them as fictional characters — which, I guess is what they are, as much as one doesn’t like to admit that — I can feel that revulsion and sympathy and just hope that they’re able to have decent lives.

But the writing? Simsion’s craft here is what kept me going through my distaste — and what’s going to compel me to give it a higher rating than I initially thought I would. Everything I thought/hoped he was capable of after The Rosie Project is on full display here — and, honestly, Adam Sharp is probably a better novel than it’s predecessors. Yes, there are comic moments, but this isn’t as funny as the Rosie books, so don’t look for a similar experience. But the emotional palate is richer, more varied — deeper.

The use of music throughout — as Adam’s refuge and outlet, the way that he bonds with people, and the songs used for various purposes — is just dynamite. Well, almost dynamite — Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” rather than Marc Cohn’s? Really? (both in the playlist and novel) One of the problems with musicians in novels who write their own material (Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa, Andy Abramowitz’s Tremble, Hornby’s Tucker Crowe, etc.) who use other’s songs, is that you have to imagine the music, imagine the skill, imagine the feeling. But with Adam (or Doyle’s The Commitments) you can take a shortcut through that and know exactly what feelings, sounds, rhythms, and so on are to be conjured up (Simsion gives us the exact album version sometimes so we can’t get it wrong). I’m sure there are articles to be written about the music here and how it serves, propels, shapes the plot — but I don’t have that kind of time.

Oh, I can’t forget to mention — the official playlist for this is killer. I wish I’d have had an Internet connection available while I was reading it, I’m sure it’d have been a bonus. It’s definitely helping while I write — but there’s some good stuff there for just good listening.

I was genuinely excited to read this book — while I wasn’t especially taken with The Rosie Effect, I loved The Rosie Project — I’m pretty sure it made my Top 10 that year, and I recommended it to everyone I could think of online and in person. So when a new book by Simsion was announced — and not another Rosie book — I preordered it, and jumped on the opportunity when I saw it on NetGalley. And then that Introduction hooked me hard. Part I was wonderful. But man . . . I just couldn’t handle Part II. Which leaves me in a pickle when it comes to this post, you know?

I admired this book more than I enjoyed it — though I need to stress I really enjoyed parts of it. I’d love to heartily recommend this, I wish I could — but I can only do so with reservations. There’s so much I object to going on in these pages that I can’t, while I can respect Simsion’s work — and I know this book achieved everything he wanted. I’ll give it 4 Stars on merit, not my own enjoyment.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

—–

4 Stars

Review Catch Up: The Rosie Project; Where’d You Go, Bernadette; The Rosie Effect; Funny Girl

I’m hitting another block when trying to talk about the last few books I’ve read, because here’s another batch of very overdue takes on some good books (and one not).

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project

by Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman, #1
Hardcover, 304 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2013
Read: November 6, 2013


This was charming, witty, and had plenty of heart — even without the romance, which just took it all to another level. It was just plain fun to read.

Don Tillman is just a great character — he’s likely someone with Asperger’s, if not fully Autistic. Which is mentioned once or twice, and then not brought up again. He’s then treated as a stubborn, curious, character with behavior patterns no one can seem to understand, but most people in his life figure out hot to cope with. Sometimes they laugh at him, sometimes they get frustrated or angry. What he’s not treated as is someone with anything. He’s not treated by his symptoms, he’s just treated as this guy. Simsion’s treatment of Don reminds me of Abed Nadir, from Community (which is high praise from me).

The only complaint I had was that the last chapter wasn’t really needed, and maybe would’ve been best left to the imagination. But, setting that aside, it felt rushed, while the rest of the book was so well done, it just stuck out like a sore thumb.

Still, whatever — one of my favorite books of 2013, and still one of the best RomComs I can remember.
5 Stars

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

Hardcover, 330 pg.
Little, Brown and Company, 2012
Read: January 01 – 02, 2014

Do you get seasick? People who don’t get seasick have no idea what it’s like. It’s not just nausea. It’s nausea plus losing the will to live.

I should get that embroidered on something.

This starts light and breezy, a little strange, a little typical “these crazy (white) suburbanites with too much money”; but you know it’s going to get dark eventually — probably nasty dark, but first it’s going to lull you into a false sense of fun. I don’t think it gets as dark as it felt like it could’ve, it didn’t need to, and I’m glad it didn’t — but there was a whole lot going on that the whacky beginning didn’t indicate.

You don’t have care about the story because these characters are strength enough to carry your attention for quite awhile with nothing happening — and Semple’s style is just as strong. But there is a story here, a story of a daughter discovering just who her mother was — as is — a story about a talented woman who ended up loving a life she’d never have expected or picked for herself or her family. So you do care about the story — especially the way it’s told, in bits and pieces, jumping back and forth through time, from multiple perspectives — particularly when you get two or three perspectives painting a picture of an event — as Bee digs into her investigation.

Fun story, quirky characters, well-told story, with plenty of heart — and too many quotable lines. I jotted down a few that I can’t resist sharing, even in this abbreviated post.

You probably think, U.S./Canada, they’re interchangeable because they’re both filled with English-speaking, morbidly obese white people. Well, Manjula, you couldn’t be more mistaken.

Americans are pushy obnoxious, neurotic, crass — anything and everything — the full catastrophe as our friend Zorba might say. Canadians are one of that. . . To Canadians, everyone is equal. Joni Mitchell is interchangeable with a secretary at open-mic night. Frank Gehry is no greater than a hack pumping out McMansions on AutoCAD, John Candy is no funnier than Uncle Lou when he gets a couple of beers in him. No wonder the only Canadians anyone’s ever heard of are the ones who have gotten the hell out. Anyone with talent who stayed would be flattened under an avalanche of equality.

Really, who wants to admit to her daughter that she was once considered the most promising architect in the country, but now devotes her celebrated genius to maligning the driver in front of her for having Idaho plates?”

4 Stars

The Rosie EffectThe Rosie Effect

by Graeme Simsion
Series: Don Tillman, #2

Hardcover, 352 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Read: January 12 – 13, 2015

“To the world’s most perfect woman.” It was lucky my father was not present. Perfect is an absolute that cannot be modified, like unique or pregnant. My love for Rosie was so powerful that it had caused my brain to make a grammatical error.

Don and Rosie are living in New York, getting used to married life, and expecting a kid. None of which goes well — so, of course, Don tries to tackle things the same way he did in the last book. Instant sequel, just add water.

This sequel was written with the same wit and skill as The Rosie Project, but the story wasn’t there — and more importantly, neither was the heart.

Mostly, I think, because Rosie wasn’t around for a lot — and when she was there, she wasn’t a character, she was an obstacle.

Other than really liking the occasional line (maybe more than occasional), I just didn’t like how Rosie or Don were written, the plot was shoddy and contrived, and I was just glad to be done with it so I could move on.
2 Stars

Funny GirlFunny Girl

by Nick Hornby

Hardcover, 452 pg.
Riverhead Books, 2015
Read: February 7, 2015

How on earth could he love her? But he did, Or, at least, she made him feel sick, sad, and distracted. Perhaps there was another way of describing that unique and useless combination of feelings, but “love” would have to do for now.

Everything I know about this era of British culture and TV comes from The Hour and An Adventure in Space and Time, so I just have to trust that Hornby did his homework on this. I thought the behind-the-scenes stuff was great, it felt real — it felt like the kinds of conversations that writers and actors should be having anyway.

The love story turned out a lot different than I was sure it would – thankfully. Actually, most of the book did. This wasn’t the rags-to-riches-to-wreck story that it seemed like it was going to be, but a story of some people with dreams and talent doing what they could to get going in a cutthroat business. Dreams were chased, many were caught, others changed/grew — as did the dreamers.

In the midst of the discussions about the nature of their show and the stories they told — both during the making of the show Barbara (and Jim) and in later chapters where it was being looked back at, I kept wondering if tucked away in all that was an apologia for light fiction like Hornby writes? If so, I appreciated it. (it also reminded me of some similar comments John Cleese has made lately, after coming to terms with being someone who makes people laugh, and not saving the world or something grander)

Thoughtful, heartfelt, charming — this is Hornby at his most confident and mature. I can see why some aren’t liking it, but it really clicked for me.

4 1/2 Stars