Andrew Burke

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education and Arts


This thesis is in the form of a novel titled 'High Spirits' and an exegesis, 'Behind Dry Ink in Set Patterns'.

The novel traces the life of an Australian girl from birth to her mid-teens. Rose Sommers is adopted by a couple who have returned from prisoner-of-war camps in Singapore after World War II. Set in the early 1960s, the narrative starts with Rose at thirteen running away from the family farm to Perth. The novel has six flashbacks in the first third to tell the story of how the parents adopted and treated her: her adoptive mother was unbalanced and her adoptive father was a weak man.

When she arrives in Perth, the buildings and crowded streets terrify Rose, so she runs straight through to bushland in Kings Park. There she teams up with Bela, a Hungarian refugee-and from there she is on her own. Through periods of great deprivation, including drug addiction and the birth of two children, Rose is in constant battle with the law and bureaucracy. From a religious rebel to a spiritual seeker, from a bikie's moll to a folksinging star, Rose's fortunes fluctuate wildly. She has relationships along the way, but as usual with relationships of those adrift in society, these come to grief. In the end, Rose battles to return to a 'normal' life for the benefit of her child-a scenario so often 'true to life' in contemporary society.

The exegesis comprises two independent but supportive essays. The first essay is autobiographical, exploring how I came to write a novel about a teenage girl in the 1960s with a drug problem. The second essay focuses on an exploration of the novel's similarities and differences to YA novels and how such literature can help shape a young person's thinking