Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 30, 2010

Campaign Ruby, by Jessica Rudd


I’ve always rather enjoyed elections.  I think I might have enjoyed a political career, if only there were a party that I could in all conscience join.  I get the same buzz out of analysing a closely fought campaign as other people might get from watching well-matched teams fight out a grand final, though the punishing schedule of a Tour de France is closer to the weeks and months of a federal election in Australia.

However you don’t have to be an election tragic to enjoy Jessica Rudd’s new book.  It  may be set in the drama of elections in Canberra, but it’s chick lit.  Chick-lit for career women; for those with an interest in current affairs; and for anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes, behind the 10-second news grab and behind the polished performances we see in the media.  As the blurb tells us, it’s Bridget Jones on the campaign trail, and it’s as funny as  Bridget Jones’s Diary is said to be.

I haven’t read Helen Fielding’s book, but I saw the hilarious film starring Renée Zellweger instead.  Campaign Ruby is actually the first chick-lit I’ve ever read – and will probably be the last – but I enjoyed it.  It is so well-written that it manages to transcend the silliness of the genre to become an entertaining insight into modern politics in Australia.

Source: Wikipedia

My first piece of research to write this review was to check out the Louboutin shoes which matter so much to Ruby, an investment banker and fashionista of London.  For the uninitiated, the shoe-designer Christian Louboutin was inspired to design these extraordinary stilettos when he saw a sign banning sharp stilettos in a museum because of the damage they do to wooden  flooring.  Wikipedia tells me that he ‘wanted to defy that … to create something that broke rules and made women feel confident and empowered.’  Why women should feel empowered by tottering along on shoes which will give them endless foot trouble in their old age and preclude running for a bus I do not know; it seems to me to be more empowering to put the price of a pair of these shoes towards buying some shares, but perhaps Ruby the investment banker knows more about investing than I do?

Anyway, thanks to an intemperate email that goes viral, Ruby’s career runs into strife in London, and she (minus the Laboutins) comes to the Land of Oz  to catch up with her aunt and lie low for a while.  Australia is actually the last place she intended to be: she can’t even remember how she came to buy the one-way non-refundable ticket but it has something to do with drowning her sorrows with far too much Victorian Pinot Noir.  Fate intervenes when she attends a party at a Yarra Valley winery, and she ends up working as a financial policy adviser to the Federal Leader of the Opposition.   This is where the story begins to have eerie resonances with the recent shenanigans in Canberra.  The plot centres around a prime minister deposed by his female offsider, the public indignation caused by that, and the opposition leader who wants to capitalise on the mayhem when he isn’t really ready for office.  (This is  signalled by the fact that he hires Ruby on a whim – to advise him at the last minute, of all things – on economic policy).   In the light of recent events here, it could be seen as a fable about the perils of intemperate ambition.

The book was released earlier than scheduled and launched in the final days before Australia’s real election – which followed the replacement of the author’s father, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by his deputy Julia Gillard. In Dymocks, Campaign Ruby was selling at a discount price, presumably because they think its time in the sun will be brief.    That would be a pity.  Jessica Rudd writes very well –  this is an entertaining book and it should outlast the current political situation.  Ruby’s adventures have the authenticity of one who knows Australian politics well, but are laugh-out-loud funny.

Her first of many predicaments in Australia  is that her luggage goes missing, and fashionista though she is, she has no time to buy replacement clothes because of the 24/7 demands of the campaign trail.  It is this aspect of the book that really intrigued me, but Rudd’s touch is deft and the comedy ensures that the book will interest others less interested in politics and media management.  For Ruby inflicts one disaster after another on herself, only briefly demoralised by her own folly.  There are imprudent decisions about men in the media, wardrobe malfunctions and blunders with microphones but Ruby ploughs on regardless because after all, she’s a career woman and she has to work…

I won’t be surprised if Campaign Ruby is optioned by Hollywood.  Transposed to the White House cast with Obama/Clinton rivalry and Ruby as a stop-gap intern, this book would make a very entertaining movie.   There’s an interview with Jessica Rudd at Fancy Goods.

P.S.  Apart from some minor editing necessitated by the early release of this book, this review was written four weeks before the 2010 federal election results, just after the election campaign started.  The original embargo date was August 30th, but the book was released before that to take advantage of interest in the election.  I decided to stick with the original embargo date because I don’t want to attract political commentary on my blog, especially not in the heat of a closely fought election or its peculiar aftermath.

Author: Jessica Rudd
Title: Campaign Ruby
Publisher: Text Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9781921656576
Source: Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of Text Publishing.

Availability:
Fishpond: Campaign Ruby or eBook Campaign Ruby

or direct from Text.


Responses

  1. I was looking forward to your review on this one, because in all honesty I thought you would rubbish it! I’m surprised it was better than you expected. Perhaps it is harsh of me, but I thought this book would be dire. I’m not a fan of chick-lit (I’ve read maybe 3 or 4 in the past), because I just find it so shallow and doesn’t speak to me on any level whatsoever. This one does sound enjoyable though.

  2. This does sound like fun. I was hugely impressed by Jessica Rudd’s interview last week with Richard Aedy on Life Matters. She was impressive, and the book sounded fun, even if not normally in my ambit (ie like kimbofo and I’m sure you, chicklit is not my first port of call!)

  3. I’m reasonably surprised by your response too Lisa. I saw some of the press about her in the last few weeks, and was mildly intrigued, but didn’t realise it was a chick-lit book. I don’t know all that much about shoes, but even I had heard of the Louboutin shoes, they are very eye catching with the red sole. Once you’ve seen one, they’re immediately recognisable. Very good for brand recognition, if even you’re someone like me, and in absolutely in no danger of ever owning a pair.

  4. To be honest, when it was sent to me as an uncorrected proof copy, I wasn’t expecting much of it either. Light fiction usually bores me to sobs, even when it’s quite well done. But this was different because it was (kind of) about politics, and the Bridget Jonesish slapstick was funny. I mean, our politicians are usually at their most droll when they don’t mean to be, eh?
    Alas, Louise, my ankle injury means that I can never wear heels again which is a pity because a good stiletto makes me six feet tall, which I rather enjoyed. I had heard of those Manolo ones, but they’re not a common sight in primary schools either LOL.

  5. I’m with you Lisa. I had heard of Manolo but I would have had to look up Louboutin too. No interest to me though. I have never worn or owned a pair of stilettos in my life. Sad really isn’t it? I’ve had sore feet from the time I can remember so I used to buy the lowest heels I could find. Now flats are easy to find and I’m in Seventh Heaven.

  6. I have just read ‘ Campaign Ruby ‘ and I quite enjoyd it.I kept thinking that it would make an light and bright movie.
    This is what the world needs now.. as the song says…we do need love sweet love and a few laughs!
    Well done Jessica!
    When is your next book coming out?
    Bette Watson.

    • Hi Bette, welcome to chatting on ANZ Litlovers:)
      I wonder what she’ll write next? I hope it’s not a one-book wonder… she writes too well for that.
      Lisa

  7. My first chick lit also, and am enjoying it thoroughly. J Rudd writes a fun first novel – the politics gives it interest and bite. Hope she keeps on writing.

  8. Nice to meet you, Library Girl – what else do you read if Campaign Ruby is your first chick lit?

  9. Hi Lisa – I read anything and everything!
    On my blog there is a list of what I’ve read this year.
    All sorts : from Jacob de Zoet to What Katy did.
    I like variety.
    Nice blogby the way – look forward to checking out your archive.

  10. Ordinarily, I love chick lit… but this book just didn’t cut it for me. The main character was stifling and predictable; her stream of conciousness was hard to follow and the obsessive list writing was an unecessary glitch in the flow of the storyline.

    Ruby had the potential to be a strong, assertive girl – but the ‘bumbling antics’ (which I gather were an attempt to make her seem more relatable) were over the top and way too cliched. Instead, she seemed annoying, self concious and slightly pretencious (‘Austrian peanut noise’ was so lame I nearly discontinued reading)

    The sub characters were nondescript and unrelatable; too many references to lawyers (yes, we get it, the writer went to law school) and not enough show of friendship and sisterhood – it’s like the story was hurried and I didn’t get enough time to appreciate the depth of her relationships or characters.

    I congratulate the writer for ‘putting it out there’, but ‘Campaign Ruby’ was cliched, unrefined and reminded me more of a self-deprecating blog than a piece of modern chick literature.

    That said, the fact it was an adjunt to her father’s political career was the only redeeming feature. Hope she gets it’s right next time.

    • Hello Valeria, welcome to ANZ LitLovers and thanks for taking the time to comment.
      It’s a pity you didn’t enjoy this book. I thought it was good fun and I’m very pleased that another tale of Ruby Stanhope’s adventures is in the pipeline!


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