Book Review: The Ruth Roth Series, by Paula Houseman

A misfit who is trying to find her place in the world, grows into a tall and beautiful woman with a mouth and mind ruled by the goddess of obscenity.

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I’m controlled by the butt-ugly, potty-mouthed goddess of obscenity.

The Ruth Roth series comprises three novels by Paula Houseman: Odyssey in a Teacup, Apoco[hot]lips/ Cupid F*cks Up, and My T(r)oyboy is a Twat.

Semi-autobiographical, Ruth Roth, like the author, is a Jewish-Australian from a migrant background living in Adelaide. Houseman describes Ruth as a misfit who is trying to find her place in the world, attempting to squash her personality into an acceptable box only to see it consistently fly out in the face of her family. Eventually, Ruth grows in to her personality and accepts herself, standing tall and beautiful and with a mouth and mind ruled by the goddess of obscenity, Baubo.

There are plenty of reviewers on the web who love these books but, sadly, I can’t be one of them. The characters just aren’t likeable. Ruth, as our main character, dislikes the majority of the population and then describes the reason that she dislikes them is because they have some kind of physical issue, something she doesn’t like, or they’re fat, or they are nasty to her and the reason for it is that they are fat.

Ruth describes herself as having Cacomorphobia, fear of obese people, on what seems like nearly every second page. It gets dull after a while. The other characters are not much better – Ralph has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but this is also used as a reason for disliking others. Maxi and Vette are not as completely fleshed out as Ralph and Ruth but both support all of the dislikes our Ralph and Ruth have.

Given that Houseman starts with childhood stories and progresses through school times, it does read as that familiar teen angst where everyone other than the inner circle of friends suck but, as Ruth moves into adulthood, the language and dislike of the general population simply does not change or mature. It’s hard then to see the humour through the general disdain and dislike. The novel doesn’t flow beautifully because of this. Rather, it is a series of vignettes about awful people in her life until Ruth realises she doesn’t care about their opinions.

There aren’t many ways to know that you’re reading an Australian novel, other than the occasional mention of Henley Beach or the Barossa Valley. Australian novels don’t require that everyone says “G’day, mate!” or have barbies by a billabong but the language and stories described could almost be transplanted to any city in the world, as if Houseman has wanted to sanitise the language for an international market.

I hoped the second book might move on, so that the first book proved to simply be providing context, but unfortunately the second book was just as slow to read with a somewhat confusing beginning – are we starting from a happily ever after or not? Is it all in Ruth’s mind?

Unfortunately, because I could not find any flow or likeable characters, I couldn’t find it in me to really care too much about what happened next. After forcing myself to finish the first novel and getting no relief from the second volume, I gave up on the series part way through the second book.

Reviewed by Michelle Baylis

Rating out of 10:  4

Distributed by: Amazon Australia
Released:
2015 – 2018

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