Stirling Times

Writing the Anzac spirit

- Tanya MacNaughto­n

A FASCINATIO­N with history, especially the World Wars, meant Michael Burrows knew he was destined to write his first novel focusing on one of them.

The decision was made clearer when he went to Gallipoli for Anzac Day 2013.

“During the ceremony they read some war poetry, and I started thinking about an Australian version of the famous English war poets — who would they be, was there someone already, could I invent one?” Burrows said.

“Then I had to write it, because he was living in my head. I could picture this bronzed, heroic, disrespect­ful Aussie poet who eventually became the ‘Unknown Digger’ of the book and I wanted to know what happened to him.”

He said his novel Where the Line Breaks was everything he had wanted to see in a book but could never find, mixing historical fiction with a modern-day literary puzzle.

Half the novel takes the form of an academic thesis written by a PhD student in London attempting to prove that the Unknown Digger (Australia’s anonymous war poet extraordin­aire) is actually Anzac war hero

Alan Lewis, of the 10th Light Horse, who died in the Middle East campaign and received the Victoria Cross for his actions.

“As Matt writes his PhD, his own life and battles begin to seep into the footnotes until they take over the story,” Burrows said.

“The other half of the novel follows Alan Lewis through the war; from his early life in rural WA, his training in Egypt, and on to the campaign in the Middle East known as ‘The Great Ride’.

“As it progresses, we see the difference­s between the official history and the real lived experience.

“It’s definitely not like any book about the Anzacs I’ve read, which is why I had to write it.”

Where the Line Breaks was shortliste­d for the 2019 Fogarty Literary Award.

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Author Michael Burrows

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