The Rosie Project book club discussion questions

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is available as one of the Gold Coast Libraries’ book club kits. This debut novel was the ABIA 2014 Book of the Year.

**Please be aware that book discussion questions may contain spoilers.**

Synopsis: Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who works at a Melbourne University – best described as a bit like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. At 39 years old, Don would like to find a life partner (marriage optional, depending on the partner’s preferences), and because he does everything as efficiently as possible, Don designs a sixteen-page questionnaire to aid the statistical probability of finding the right person while minimising the negative experiences of dating.

When Rosie Jarman walks into Don’s office, he assumes that she has been sent by his friends Gene and Claudia as a potential wife. It gradually dawns on him that Rosie is completely unsuitable by the criteria in the ‘wife project’ questionnaire, but by then Rosie has drawn Don in on a search to find her biological father – a search that Don, as a professor of genetics, is well qualified to advise on. During their time together, Don learns many lessons but the greatest lesson of all is that you don’t find love – it finds you!

The Rosie Project is full of laughs, but it also looks at the more serious aspects of life such as the human need for relationships and companionship.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you feel that Don’s plans to find a partner could have resulted in a happier marriage for him than the ‘open’ marriage of Gene and Claudia?
  2. Don tells us that he has been misdiagnosed with a number of medical labels such as Asperger’s, autism, bipolar and schizophrenia. Through his own research, he knows that these diagnoses are incorrect but we are never told exactly what condition Don suffers from. Why do you think that the author would choose not to be specific in this?
  3. How would you categorise the genre of this book? Is it a comedy, romance, chic lit or mystery? Or all of these?
  4. Don Tillman is 39 years old, tall, fit and intelligent – but completely unattractive to women. He is not at all nerdy, and unlike Sheldon from Big Bang Theory he does not think himself superior to the rest of humankind, although he sees no need to follow social protocols. Do you find Don’s character believable? Did you identify with his motivations? Did you find yourself agreeing with Don’s practical approach at times?
  5. The author states in the acknowledgements that he ‘chose to go with comedy rather than drama’ in this novel. Have the ‘differences’ in Don been handled tactfully, or would they offend those with autism or Asperger’s in their lives? Is it possible for someone who sits outside society’s ‘normal’ framework to accept their position matter-of-factly as Don does?
  6. On a trip to New York, Don comments that in New York “being weird is acceptable”. Do you agree with this statement? Would someone like Don find themselves at home in New York?
  7. The final part of the book is about Don attempting to win Rosie back, and the style is more conventional romantic comedy. Did you enjoy this more, or did it detract from the unusual nature of this novel?
  8. Don changes throughout the novel and attempts to conform, especially at the end. Did you find this believable, or did it happen too quickly?

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