I had known Ruth’s writing from her column in Saturday’s paper. In 2003 her husband Jhonnie (yes, I spelt that right), suffered a severe head injury which left him in a coma fighting for his life and brain damaged. Waterlemon by Ruth Ritchie is basically Ruth’s diary as she copes with having two small children, a husband in intensive care, his ex-wife wanting to know how this will affect child support payments and weird extended family.
I’m not sure if Ruth was trying to mimic the confusion that her husband felt coming out of the coma, but I spent a whole lot of this book having no idea who was who. A long stream of different characters come in and out of the house, some with only a slight introduction. I kept getting confused about who was family, who was the hired help, who was a school friend, who we had met before and who is new. (Except for Simon Burke; the early childhood geek in me never forgets a playschool presenter).
Also Ruth is quite mean in her depiction of anyone she doesn’t like. Which seems to be a lot of people. Her husband’s ex, old friends who haven’t kept in contact, His extended family, doctors who don’t do what she wants, social workers, Mums at school. If it had been fiction I would have been morbidly fascinated, but because it’s real life it felt a little unnecessary. Whether or not her descriptions are correct I was uncomfortable reading it, and I wonder if she thought about how it will look to the people she wrote about (I got the impression she wanted to one-up them). I had tried to excuse her behaviour because of the strain she had faced, but as the book was written a few years after the event I don’t think she can use that as an excuse.
The whole book is really more about her life, than Jhonnie’s injury. While I was interested in finding out how he fared at the end, I'm not sure it was worth all the badmouthing, drinking and superiority complex.