Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 5, 2012

The Fine Colour of Rust, by P.A. Reilly


The Fine Colour of RustThis is going to have to be a rather skimpy review: The Fine Colour of Rust by P.A. (Paddy) O’Reilly is so popular that the library would only let me have it for a short time and so I had to scamper through it without taking my usual copious notes.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular: it’s funny, it’s heart-warming and it’s quintessentially Australian.  It’s the story of single-mum Loretta Boskovic who introduces herself like this:

‘Well, I’d better pick up the kids,’ I say.  I don’t want to pick up the kids.  I want to send them to an orphanage and buy myself a nice dress and learn to live the way I used to, before I turned into the old scrag I am now.’

Like Laura in the ABC TV series Bed of Roses Loretta has no money and a clapped-out car, and there’s likewise a Mr Fixit man in her life, but there the resemblances end.  Norm owns the junk yard and while his dry humour and empathy make him a likeable character, a love interest he’s not.  He’s too old and grubby.  Loretta’s not very well-behaved children Jake and Melissa are still at primary school and very much underfoot, and she doesn’t live in an attractive growth-corridor town with prospects, she lives in a declining country town called Gunapan.  She has an unglamorous part-time job that gets her down, and in her spare time is trying to rustle up participation in the campaign to save the local school from closure.  This is rural realism with a comic twist and a tender heart.

A new mechanic called Merv wins her heart when he lends her a nice car while he fixes her windscreen, but alas, unlike Laura (played by sexy Kerry Armstrong) who somehow always managed to look gorgeous even when she was making a fool of herself…Loretta is fat.  (She binges on Caramellos and biscuits).  Her underwear is from the $2 shop and it’s seen better days.  And it only takes the return of her worthless ex-husband (with bimbo in tow) to demolish what little self-confidence she has.

For Loretta ‘life is small and pinched and the sky seems vast and filled with a relentless glare‘ (p. 115) but she has determination and resilience and you know that while the disasters will keep coming, she will keep picking herself up and dusting herself off to give things another go.  It’s that kind of book.

The theme of country battler v corrupt developers is a well-worn one, but quirky characters, a deft hand with the setting and wry humour bring the story alive.   The Fine Colour of Rust shows the diversity of O’Reilly’s writing craft: it’s not a literary novel like The Factory* (published under the name Paddy O’Reilly) but it is fine writing and most enjoyable to read.

*See my enthusiastic review, I loved that book, it just so happens that I recommended it to a friend this very night!)

Author: P.A. Reilly
Title:  The Fine Colour of Rust
Publisher: Blue Door (Harper Collins) 2012
ISBN: 9780007456390
Source: Kingston Library


Responses

  1. I think I have to stop reading your blog! You are reading so many good books that I want to read – my wishlist is growing at a rapid rate. I’ve just finished Nine Days, which I loved, I have Watch Out for Me and A New Map of the Universe (my library didn’t have Whisky Charlie Foxtrot) waiting for me at the library and now here’s another two to add to my list! Thanks for another fine review.

  2. I enjoyed it too, Lisa, I especially liked the ending (without giving it away), because it’s not entirely conventional (I thought). I also thought Norm was just a great character, very memorable. But I must read The Factory some time, as I’m such a fan of Paddy’s (more ‘literary’) short story collection The End of the World.

    • Hi Angela, I struggled a bit with writing this review without giving things away … there is a very interesting character I wanted to write about but decided not to because it would have been a spoiler … there’s an openness to the diversity of humanity that I really like in Paddy’s work, I am dying to see what she comes up with next!
      PS Angela’s thoughts about A Fine Colour of Rust are at her blog: http://wp.me/p1Pr54-1ky

  3. Hi Lisa this is the second positive review of this book I have read. I would happily have supported it in our voting this year for next years light read but there didn’t seem much interest. I will add it to the wishlist instead. It sounds a book with a lot of heart.

    • I’d be really interested to hear a Kiwi take on it … I can’t think of a Kiwi book that’s set in a contemporary country town in NZ but it would make an interesting cultural comparison.

  4. Sounds like a good one Lisa. Your review gives a good idea of the book – I aim at writing between 800 and 1000 words and wouldn’t think that this review is skimpy.

    • Hi Tom, I would have liked to include a quotation – to give readers an idea of her style – but it had to go back to the library *sigh*

  5. I picked this up from the library after the Las Vegas launch where we saw her. Plan to read it in the next couple of weeks.

    • Hey Marg – I bumped into Paddy last night at a book launch at Embiggen Books (Damon Young’s Philosophy in the Garden). We spent a bit of time in the children’s book section with Xmas gifts for small loved ones in mind. She is such a nice person!

  6. […] “It’s easy to see why it’s so popular: it’s funny, it’s heart-warming and it’s quintessentially Australian. … The theme of country battler v corrupt developers is a well-worn one, but quirky characters, a deft hand with the setting and wry humour bring the story alive. The Fine Colour of Rust shows the diversity of O’Reilly’s writing craft: it’s not a literary novel like The Factory (published under the name Paddy O’Reilly) but it is fine writing and most enjoyable to read.” ANZ Lit Lovers […]


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