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The Fine Colour of Rust - Book Review

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by Alison Muirhead (subscribe)
Doting grandmother and grey nomad who should join Volunteers Anonymous and is greatly in favour of a ten day week. So much to do, so little time.
Published September 25th 2012
Aussie mum fights city hall and goes even higher
What is it about the name Loretta and Australia's current crop of Female writers? There was the sometime mother from Romy Ash's Floundering, Here it's the concerned and caring mother of P.A. O'Brien's The Fine Colour of Rust. Both are love stories the former quite pathetic, the latter laugh out loud hilarious despite touching on some rather serious topics.

The small country town of Gunapan is a microcosm of all Australian country towns. There are two strata of society the landed gentry and the workers. Many of the latter have personal problems to overcome; deserted wives and husbands, the unemployed, and unmarried mothers amongst the mix. This Loretta falls into the first category.

Shiftless and emotionally abusive husband Tony has taken off with the CRZ, the couple's best car, leaving Loretta with the beat-up Holden and two kids. Pre-pubescent Melissa, the elder, blames her mother for his desertion, and holds high hopes for his return. He does so, but with a much younger and nave new partner in tow, whom he flaunts around the town. She is oblivious to the circumstances of his separation and tries to befriend Loretta and the two children. Tony has not changed his spots, and Melissa eventually sees through her amoral father.

Loretta is a dreamer, visualising various knights in shining armour who will solve all her problems. She also has fantasies of putting the children in an orphanage, or even gaol, but you know that would never happen.

Loretta's deeply held love for her progeny inspires her to become involved in community issues which could impinge on their welfare. These include organising a movement to prevent the closure of the local school, and exposing council corruption. The latter involves an upmarket resort development which threatens the social fabric of the town as well as its natural water supply and amenity.

Loretta has close friends whom she sometimes manages to alienate through her tactless outbursts. Her firmest and most constant friend is Norm, the local junkyard owner. It is Norm who provides the ammunition for Loretta to expose the council corruption. He is also indirectly responsible for Loretta's finding her knight in shining armour. How? That would be telling.
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