My first review for the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge is 'Campaign Ruby' by Jessica Rudd.
Londoner Ruby Stanhope gets retrenched from her investment banking job and in a drunken daze accidentally books a non-refundable flight to Australia. Within days of landing in Melbourne she somehow finds herself as a policy advisor to the Leader of the Opposition (aka the LOO), and when a snap election is called, a hectic election campaign ensues.
This breezy novel has familiar chick-lit staples such as designer shoes and clothes, gallons of wine, a hot and sleazy spunk rat, lesbian secondary characters, and a heroine who manages to spill food and drink all over herself on a regular basis. What sets it apart is that its milieu is politics, and Australian politics at that. Also, the fact that the author, Jessica Rudd, is the daughter of ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, gives the story an extra piquancy, especially as political events in the book eerily mirror reality. In Campaign Ruby a long-standing Prime Minister, who’s been in power for thirteen years, is no longer popular with the voters but refuses to acknowledge this. (Sound familiar?) His deputy then moves to depose him, and succeeds in becoming Australia’s first female prime minister. (Sound even more familiar?)
This novel perfectly captures the insanity of a political staffer’s life when an election is on. Along with the rest of the Leader of Opposition’s staff, Ruby bounces from city to city, coast to coast, meeting an eclectic collection of people along the way and getting a crash course in Oz politics, language, and culture. It’s a pity we don’t get more of a picture of all the places she visits because after a while it all becomes a blur (which I suppose is how it is in reality). En route we learn a little of Ruby’s views on certain election hot potato topics, but it’s not a whole lot, and I would have preferred the story to delve a little deeper into her character and what makes her tick.
Apolitical readers need not worry that they’ll be bludgeoned by political rhetoric, as the book barely mentions our main political parties. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy the circus of an election campaign combined with the Bridget Jones-type antics of an appealing heroine. I would have liked to know Ruby more, but still thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.