The Rosie Result, Graeme Simsion

Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo, November 2019 – [Vic]

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Simsion’s “screenplay for The Rosie Project is in development with Sony Pictures”. Do I feel I have been sucked in by the hype for this series or should I be pleased that Australian authors, Lianne Moriarty (here and here) is another, are getting some reward for effort? I fall somewhere in between.

I reviewed The Rosie Project (here), which I enjoyed, and later read the sequel, The Rosie Effect, which I found forced and derivative. The Rosie Result regains some of the life and originality of The Rosie Project, at least in part by concentrating on the developmental issues encountered by Don and Rosie’s son, Hudson, who is very similar to Don, over the course of his last year in Primary school.

The great strength of the book is the way Simsion raises and deals with issues from the debates around Aspergers Syndrome and the Austism spectrum by explicitly discussing, having the protagonists, including Hudson, discuss, how they apply or don’t apply to Hudson.

Briefly, and I hope I get this right, I listened to the audiobook last week, and don’t have a hard copy to look up, Don and Rosie are living and working in NY. Their son and only child Hudson is aged about 11. Rosie, a medical doctor with a PhD in psychology, is offered a prestigious research position back home in Melbourne. Don, a mathematician working in genetics, is happy for her career to take precedence and in any case expects to and does find a suitable position at Melbourne Uni. Hudson is not happy about changing schools but doesn’t get a vote. The audiobook reader gives Hudson a generic American accent throughout, emphasising the difficulty Hudson has in adjusting to school in Australia.

In Melbouren, Hudson is put into a private school, makes friends with a girl with albinism, is misunderstood by his teacher – who starts out as the “villian”, but is more sympathetic towards the end, gets transferred to another class where he gradually blossoms.

The premise of the story is that Hudson’s problems at school lead to the conclusion that he needs a stay-at-home parent. Logically (of course) Don adopts that role and gives up his professorship (after giving a lecture on genetics where he asks students to place themselves on a race/colour spectrum to prove something – I forget what – in answer to a query from a student who is setting him up).

But this leaves the family short of money, so Don opens a cocktail bar which is specified so as to be only suitable for people with autism, and which should only occupy his time when Hudson is in bed. Except he very rarely is, often sleeps behind the bar, and has an official position as greeter and trainer (you’re meant to order your drinks using a complicated app).

Don meanwhile becomes friends with Hudson’s friend’s mother, who is in an abusive relationship – which is a polite way of saying she is dominated by and sometimes belted by her husband and seems to like it – which eventually leads to Don being able to do some he-man stuff at a school function.

All the old characters are back. Don continues to be supported by Claudia, his ex-best friend’s ex-wife; and by his men’s group from NY, until they end up in Melbourne. Hudson gets his own support group, Gene and Claudia’s son and daughter. There’s a little running joke about damage to his father in law’s Porsche, which Don is driving, being blamed on Rosie. And so on. Rosie still seems to be the one who must adapt to Don’s logical idiocies.

The Rosie Result is worth reading/listening to just for, maybe only for, the considered debate about autism. But of course, despite the fact the kids and I all think we’re somewhere on the spectrum, it’s a subject I know nothing about and Simsion may for all I know be completely wrong. I hope not because he’s going to get millions of readers.

 

Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Result, Text, Melbourne, 2019. Audiobook read by Dan O’Grady.

19 thoughts on “The Rosie Result, Graeme Simsion

  1. I engaged in a conversation on another blogger’s post just recently in which she said that she felt book with autistic characters was becoming cliched, or something to that effect. I noted that I didn’t think it was fair to call the rise of non-normative characters, who haven’t really had their own space in fiction in the past, cliched. Other commenters agreed with her, though. I think what worries me is that some authors who are not themselves autistic are writing autistic characters in the hopes that adding diversity will help books sales and tug on the reader’s heartstrings. That I get, and I do think that using anyone simply to claim diversity is a gimmick.

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    • I wrote in my first review that Don’s character was researched rather than experienced, and that that was problematic for me. Also I think the loveable, autistic genius is becoming a cliche and probably grossly misrepresents the usual experience of people on the spectrum. And yes Don’s behaviour is a gimmick on which the author has built a profitable series.

      In passing, Hudson’s friend in The Rosie Result might be the first time an author has posited a loveable female on the autism spectrum.

      All that said, I think Simsion with this book has attempted to canvas all the views around autism and present them within a readable story, and I think that was worthwhile. But of course the real question is do people on the autism spectrum agree.

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      • For all the problematic things you mention, I think there should be a handful of sensitivity readers — people who actually have autism and can give feedback — to make a stronger, smarter book. I definitely hate the term “sensitivity reader,” though. I think it should be called experiential fact checker, or something that captures what’s actually happening better.

        I’m completely with you about the autistic genius issue. One that people say a lot in the U.S. is that people with Down’s Syndrome are angles on Earth who just love hugs. I almost threw up typing that. I just can’t imagine dehumanizing someone so greatly as to make yourself feel better, like this stranger with a different number of chromosomes that you will love you simply because you’ve built up an unrealistic human. What happens when a person with Down’s Snydrome is mad, or sad, or frustrated, or hates you, or is a jerk? These are all things that people can be and feel, and to suggest one group of people just simply doesn’t feel those feelings is very cruel, in my opinion.

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      • That’s dreadful, what you say about hugging people with Downs Syndrome. Only in America! Are sensitivity readers a thing! I could see a reason for using them with sitcoms (are there still sitcoms?) but the fact they might be needed for novels is just another reason for not reading books where authors imagine themselves into someone else’s situation.

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  2. Glad to hear that Simsion has gained some ground again with this book (I thought the second book was lazy – didn’t like it at all). Like you, I celebrate when Aus writers get a decent foothold in overseas markets, although my understanding is that the movie version of The Rosie Project has been ‘in production’ for more than five years… so, stalled.

    I heard Simsion talk many years ago – “When asked what research he did into Aspergers for the book, Simsion answered honestly “I worked in IT for thirty years.” (my post is here: https://booksaremyfavouriteandbest.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/graeme-simsion-and-the-rosie-project/ )

    I felt uncomfortable after reading the second book – from memory Don’s autistic traits were blurred with Don just being an arsehole… the danger being that for uneducated readers, these traits go hand-in-hand. Bit like when there is a murder of a young woman in a Melbourne park and the perpetrator is reported as being bipolar, or on the spectrum… we all know these conditions don’t cause particular actions and yet this kind of lazy/ or deliberate reporting perpetuates stigma.

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    • I do think that by focussing on Hudson, and on the issues, Simsion has regained some ground, though I hope he takes the opportunity to quit while he’s in front. Now I would like to hear from people (and their parents) who are in other places on the spectrum, who don’t have supportive mens groups, and who don’t have wives to smooth over their social ineptitude.

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  3. Your summary/experience of the 3 books matches Mr Books. I enjoyed the first one, but didn’t feel the need to continue on.
    The cocktail making scenes brought to mind Tom Cruise in the movie cocktail – I suspect the connection was intentional!
    Thanks for another #ausreadingmonth review 😊

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  4. Yes, I’m with Brona. I read the first one, and enjoyed it because Simsion has a lovely, warm, breezy style, but I had no need to read more. Then again, I very rarely read sequels. I’m not the sort of reader who needs to know what happened next with characters which I think is because I don’t read a lot for plot. Characterisation is very important to me, not because I want to know their whole lives, but because they are a conduit to my own thinking about humanity and values.

    I would listen to this, though, if I were driving, because denser books don’t really cut it for that purpose.

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    • Do you always drive with Mr Gums? I couldn’t follow a story at all if there were someone else with me. But on my own I enjoy ‘dense’ fiction. Currently two thirds through War & Peace, will have to get another trip so I can listen to the end (where according to Wikipedia the story peters out into philosphising).

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      • Most long trips are with him. My annual “long” – haha, not long to you – trip to Berrima each year I do on my own. You are probably right though. I could probably handle denser books on my one.

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