Outback Heart


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Published by Random House Australia 2005 ISBN: 978 1 86325 593 6
Pages: 331

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To order an author-signed copy, email Anna at The Bookshop, Darwin

Joanne van Os was just twenty-two when she met Rod Ansell. At twenty-three Rod was already a legend in Australia and around the world, having survived alone for two months without supplies in one of the harshest and most remote parts of northern Australia.

To Joanne, Rod was a genuine hero who could do anything, could make anything out of nothing, told the funniest yarns, and who had a philosophy on everything. She married him, and they had two beautiful sons who idolised their father. Together they lived the tough life of outback bull catchers and cattle musterers.

But as time went on Joanne came to realise that Rod was both a complicated and deeply troubled man. For the sake of her sons she never gave up on Rod, even after their divorce, but just how far he’d gone only became apparent when his life finally ended in tragedy: out of his mind on drugs, Rod became involved in a shoot-out in which a young police officer was killed. ‘How does someone, whose extraordinary story of survival in the wild inspired so many Australians, become a psychotic, drug-crazed gunman?’ Joanne asks.

Outback Heart captures the Territory life on paper: the dust, the heat, the struggle and the larger-than-life characters. But it’s also a deeply moving and powerful story of a love affair and a marriage, and the pain when it all falls apart. It’s the story of Rod Ansell, but even more it is Joanne’s story, of how a young naive woman grows up the hard way, and has the most exhilarating and heartbreaking times doing it.


Beautifully written, with a flow that takes hold and never lets go… One of the biographies of the year.

- Australian Women’s Weekly, Nov 2005

Outback Heart is a truly heroic book. S often the men are in the public eye doing the flash stuff, when the achieving, self-effacing women like Jo van Os are the real pioneers. Congratulations!

- Ted Egan AO, Administrator of the Northern Territory

A detailed and compelling picture of a complex character … throws up some fascinating questions about relationships, and preserving your own identity within a marriage… it’s a good book for The Wet.

- Lucy Clark, Sunday Telegraph

A tale of survival and a graphic account of life in our own heart of darkness

- Sydney Morning Herald

An extraordinary rendition of life in the Territory. A must-read.

- Sunday Territorian

…chronicles a bygone era in Australia…

- Claire Sutherland, Herald Sun

10 out of 10, because I can’t find a fault with it…the first book that has really grabbed me for a long time… the most thought provoking and moving book I have read recently.

- reviewer, Booktopia Jan 2006

Outback living never looked so good as in this fluidly written first novel by Joanne van Os.

- Ann-Maree Dyer, ABC Capricornia