Ruby Blues in the car

Jessica Rudd, Ruby Blues (Text 2011)

This was our read-aloud on the car trip from Melbourne to Sydney, and it served well enough. I had a sinking feeling at first, as I was required to deliver a number of strained comedy routines that didn’t quite work, but by about page 20 I found I was laughing aloud quite a lot. It’s a genre piece, chick lit: much description of clothes and make up, a touch of Feminism 101, quite a bit of embarrassment of the heart and loins (I was reminded of Marieke Hardy’s TV creation Laid). The eponymous Ruby is the chief adviser to an Australian Prime Minister whose popularity is plummeting, and the chick lit adventures are supplemented by a plot involving political intrigue and blackmail, which manages – just – to provide a central thread.

One of the selling points of this book is that the author is Kevin Rudd’s daughter. This creates an expectation that though it’s manifestly fiction, the book will build on insider knowledge. Well, I wouldn’t put much store by such an implied promise. For example, fairly early on someone reminds Ruby that she has to prepare the PM’s briefings for Question Time, and 30 minutes later she has the folder ready. Um, without wanting to make too much of it, I’ve heard the odd anecdote from a PM staffer, and I’m pretty sure that job takes something closer to four hours. And Ruby’s intern- assistant Bettina, the source of most of the laughs, is a vastly improbable creation.

That, plus little things like poignant being used by Ruby, presumably with Jessica’s approval, where in English we would say pertinent, and a stretch towards the end where nothing is happening except some characters renting fancy dress, makes me slow to recommend the book. But we did laugh. And we did read the whole book, which is more than I can say for AC Grayling’s Descartes, a much more substantial text that just couldn’t keep the driver awake and was discarded after about 30 pages.

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