What pisses me off most about Jessica Rudd’s book is that I don’t hate it. Not that I love it, either, mind you.
Campaign Ruby annoys me in many ways. Mostly because it’s not shit. Okay, bits of it are. (Not that I’m perfect.) But it’s a well-built, if slow to start, model that navigates familiar roads capably, and takes a few scenic detours without any sense of danger. It is to literature what Honda CR-Vs are to motoring. Not inspiring, not offensive, made for soccer mom.
This novel plays it so safe that Rudd, the daughter of former Labor PM Kevin, will not even name the real Australian political parties. The one her protagonist, Ruby Stanhope, works for is not even named. And its colour is purple – a safe mix of Labor red and Liberal blue. How weak is that?
Briefly, Ruby Stanhope loses her job in England, gets drunk, orders a plane ticket, ends up in Melbourne with her lesbian aunt, works on a campaign for the opposition leader, helps him get elected (was that a spoiler? oh, well, it was pretty predictable) against a woman who toppled a PM. Naturally that has been noted in just about every piece of publicity after life mirrored art. But aside from a few fleeting passages, this is not a novel for political junkies. It’s Bridget Jones working for a politician. The Devil Wears Policies, maybe.
After some slow early bits, it’s enjoyable. The pages fly by, and once you’ve bought into the idea of a recently sacked UK banker being appointed to a senior campaign position (responsible for organising Maccas for the press pack, avocado shaving cream and the country’s financial policy) you want her to help Kevin Rudd, I mean Max Masters, become PM. In the press release, Rudd says she hopes women will pop it in their handbag and read it on the train. And it’s kind of the perfect book for that. Victor Hugo, it ain’t, but it doesn’t pretend to be.
The character Ruby, similarly, is endearingly unpretentious. That she can handle her job but doesn’t have a life outside that makes her easy to relate to.
So, in honour of a film that annoyed me also because I didn’t hate it, here are 10 things I hate about Campaign Ruby …
I hate the way you write to me, assuming I’m a woman.
I hate the way you start chapter two with, “Fuck you, Ruby, said my head.” And the way “Fuck.” is apparently a substitute for a sentence. (Yes, it can be noun, verb, imperative and more all at once, I know.)
I hate the way the To Do list in the first chapter goes on for a page and a half.
I hate the way the items in Ruby’s travelling toolkit are numbered. Eg. “4.4.10 Sewing kit.”
I hate the chapter title “Catch Twenty-Loo.”
I hate the way Ruby arrives in a hot Melbourne summer when it’s been so freezing lately.
I hate the way when Ruby’s sister’s life falls apart she’s too busy to take a phone call.
I hate the way Ruby always has the answers, professionally, but can’t seem to get her life together at all.
I hate the way she sleeps with the hot guy when it’s the nice one for who she should fall.
But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.
Verdict? Three stars out of five. (Which annoys me.)