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This is a hard one for me to rate. There were things I liked and things I didn't like.
I didn't know anything about this book going into it. I have seen the cover and heard the title in various bookish escapades, but never read the summary. I saw a copy of the audiobook at the library and thought it would be a nice book to listen to in the car on my way to work (I work with children on the autism spectrum).
I did not know that this was a book about someone who (most likely) is on the autism spectrum with what would have been diagnosed in the past as Asperger's. In many ways, Don characterizes the stereotypical attributes of someone with Asperger's (sensory overload problems, preference for schedule and routine, difficulty understanding emotions and social cues, hard time feeling empathy for others and taking the perspective of others).
Don's character is very open about discussing these topics and how they affect his life. It is clear Simsion did some homework for this book. In that way, I liked the book. Yes, the first-person narration gets a bit annoying at times, because Don speaks in a very computer-based language. This may be typical for some people on the autism spectrum, but it's a little irritating to read as the narration of a novel. Not a criticism, just an observation, as the narration is true to Don's presentation of his character.
After a while Don kind of grows on you, although I'm with Rosie on the creepy objectifying-ness of the whole Wife Project. Obviously, that is not his intention, but it was kind of weird that it's objectifying nature wasn't discussed more in the text. I understand the difficulty for many people on the spectrum to take others' perspectives (realizing other people are autonomous and do not exist just in relation to you), but as a woman, it still made me uncomfortable that this was such a big element in a rom-com-like story and then wasn't discussed outside of Rosie's sarcastic remarks (that go completely over Don's head, because he cannot read the sarcasm. Dammit, Rosie, just say what you mean already.)
The thing that really bugged me about the book was the "changes" Don makes after meeting Rosie. Essentially, she is his opposite. She's impulsive, messy, habitually late, and doesn't plan ahead. It goes the typical way you'd expect any novel to go that has a red cover and a giant heart on it. The resolution of the book was pretty predictable. But here is what really got me:
Once he decides he wants to be with Rosie romantically, Don magically changes himself into someone who, is still a bit weird, but fits into society for the most part. He drops the computer language when speaking aloud. He's suddenly better at understanding social situations (yes, some of this is due to encounters he had on his escapades with Rosie over time, but all of a sudden he's motivated to change his behavior based on these experiences). And it was all because of Rosie. How sweet. Except that, for real-world people on the spectrum, it's not that easy. In Simsion's world, if a person has a strong-enough motivation, they can overcome the difficulties of Asperger's. They just need to love someone enough to change. This is problematic considering, even children on the spectrum who had parents who love them, advocate for them, and would do anything for them, still struggle, because it's not necessarily a matter of will. As Don says, he is "wired differently". That in itself isn't a problem, as Don shows, since there are plenty of benefits to Asperger's (thinking is a different way than neuroticals to create new systems and solutions, being more time-efficient and detail-orientated), but those social things might be harder.
It's something you learn over time and for a lot of people, it's still a conscious effort. For Don, it was more like, "This is just what I'm going to do. I'm going to be more normal." It appeared effortless all of a sudden, because he had enough love in his heart now to want to change (eye roll). Don has been acting this way for more of his life, now he essentially has to unlearn all of that protocol and replace it with a new understanding. And he does this all in such a short, unrealistic time all by himself. I think the effort and work required on Don's part was overlooked and this ignore's how much people on the spectrum actually do on a day-to-day basis.
Also... that marriage proposal. Okay, I get that you guys are old, but you haven't even known each other that long. You don't even know if you would be comfortable living together, sleeping together, or having sex with each other. And now you're prepared to get marriage? Chill out and date for a bit, then figure out the marriage stuff. Jeez. It's okay to plan a little. (END SPOILER)
Overall, a decent book that had some good depictions of someone with Asperger's and some not-so-good depictions. In general, I think Simsion did a pretty good writing of one individual's experience with Asperger's, but then it all sort of unraveled at the end like he was just over the whole autism spectrum storyline.
My only other comment is on the audiobook itself. Dan O'Grady does a good just narrating the book, but sometimes he got a little too-into-character for me. You wouldn't think that would be a problem, but listening to the book in the car while driving proved difficult at times. O'Grady often speaks louder when reading the male dialogue (Why is Gene essentially screaming every line?) while he uses a softer voice, almost a whisper for female characters (I feel like Claudia just said something really important, but I have no idea what it was. I'll have to rewind once I'm done changing lanes.). This led to a lot of volume adjusting and rewinding, which was a bit annoying.
I don't even know what to say. Apparently Simsion decided to write a book that would cause the majority of the readers to want to find him and kick him in he shins. If you want to read about a middle aged man who after hearing from an ex fling from 20 years ago just turns into a walking and talking cliche, pick this. If you want to read some very uncomfortable sex scenes which will cause you to want to scrub your eyes from your head, pick this. The flow is off and the very little dialogue that happens is painful. Eventually the book limps to an undeserved ending.
"The Best of Adam Sharp" is a tediously long book where the main character Adam flashbacks to when he went to Australia for work 22 years ago. Adam is in a rut. About 50 years old and living with his long time partner Claire, Adam is resigned to working periodically,playing music pub quizzes, and sleeping with his girlfriend sporadically. When Adam hears from his ex called Angelina one day, he gets the fire back in his life that he needed. What goes from there is an overly long explanation of how Adam met and started Angelina.
Simsion goes from present to past okay, the book is just boring though. I never cared one whit about Angelina (who is selfish as the day is long) or Adam's relationship. I think Simsion wanted you to root for these two, but since Angelina was separated when she and Adam first met, and when she contacts him years later (married with three kids) I just felt annoyed.
What makes me laugh is Adam spends most of the book justifying what is about to come. Claire who is very successful and about to sell an in demand software which will cause her to have to relocate to the US for a number of years, definitely deserves better. She is doing her best to connect with Adam. Adam is resentful (believe me) that she is contemplating leaving.
Angelina is a mess and when we get to part two with her and Adam connecting again was a mess. I maybe read while my fingers covered my eyes.
The flow was off and writing subpar. This reads like a budget High Fidelity and doesn't work. I didn't care about Adam, the songs he talks about, and how certain songs brought back memories of Angelina. There isn't anything funny in this one. If you are expecting to laugh like you may have while reading "The Rosie Project" it's not going to happen.
The setting moves from Australia, the UK, and France.
The ending was a mess. I guess the lesson learned is cheat, just don't tell your spouse about it.
Oh sweet Lord. Nope. Just nope.
This is terrible. The main character sucks and now reading about him reconnecting with an old flame he's having sex with along with permission from her husband. I just can't. How is this a romance?
It's also boring. Adam isn't a great lead and the other characters inn his book besides his long time partner and his mother are horrors.
Reading about every little song is getting old too. This book is trying for the vine of High Fidelity and falling flat.
Tone is way different than the Rosie Project. Not funny, lead is not engaging. And the whole thing reads as morose as anything.
Also how in the world is this a romance?
The lead character Adam talks about how when he was 26, he met an up and coming actress in Australia (of course) who he ended up losing touch with after their fling (love affair was up). When she contacts him 20 something years later, he's just reminiscing about their time together. I'm just bored. Adam's first love Angelina doesn't feel like a fully realized character, neither does his spouse/partner Claire. Adam reads like a ghost, a guy just making time til he dies. When Angelina pops up that's the spark to get him awake again I guess.