Book Review: Road Story by Julienne Van Loon

Julienne Van Loon has lived in Western Australia since 1997. In 2004, she won one of Australia’s most prestigious literary prizes – the Australian Vogel. Her winning novel was Road Story.

Road Story is a short novel in the dirty realism mode. It tells the story of Diana, a nineteen year old who runs away from a car crash and gets a job at a roadhouse in country New South Wales. She leaves her unconscious friend, Nicole, in the wrecked car. As the novel progresses, we learn the story of Nicole and Diana as they ran away together to Sydney and their friendship is challenged by drugs and Nicole’s boyfriend. Finally, by the end of the novel, we have understood just what happened and why Diana started running.

In between these well-handled flashbacks, Diana experiences the life of truckies as they stop at the roadhouse. The roughness of their lives is skillfully depicted.

Road Story is a polished and accomplished novel. However, I found I couldn’t connect with Diana; she was neither profound, or good or evil. Just blandly messed-up – probably like most of us.

Julienne Van Loon has a webpage with some interesting information on her life and writing:

http://au.geocities.com/julienne_vanloon/

Two of the influences she lists are Western Australian writers – Randolph Stow and Tim Winton.

Julienne teaches creative writing at Curtin University.

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