"A psychological drama with a tightly written plot and a strong grasp of characterisation.....Burke is a powerful new writer." - Australian Book Review, September 2004
The Red Cardigan
Nothing has been the same since that unsettling afternoon in art class. The afternoon when Evie's world was turned upside down. She can't explain why her portrait study changed into a picture of her classmate's dead brother and now she can't explain why she keeps drawing the face of a girl she has never seen before. All she knows is that she's terrified.
CBC Notable Book for 2005
ʻFrom the very first page of JC Burkeʼs second novel a sense of unease creeps over the reader...... a taut and gripping novel thatʼd make for a great film or tv.ʼ - Good Reading Magazine 2004.
ʻThis paranormal thriller will have you holding your breath at every turn.ʼ - Girlfriend Magazine 2004.
ʻIt is to JCʼs credit that the dialogue, characterisation and writing made me believe in this story. A spooky, vivid page turner.ʼ - Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, Australian Centre for Youth Literature.
ʻBurke develops the main idea very well in this complex novel...ʼ - Fiction Focus, Vol. 18, No. 3, 2004.
ʻGenuinely spooky moments...ʼ - The Age, July 24, 2004
'This book inspired me to read more books by J.C Burke. She is a great writer and is able to relate to teenage girls very well.' - From ‘Inside a Dog’, State Library of Victoria
VINTAGE CLOTHES, PSYCHICS and EVIE
Vintage clothes and psychics have always been two of my favourite things.There used to be a great vintage clothes shop near where I live. I'd pop in with friends and we'd play dress ups for ages. Now I have a great vintage collection, mostly stuff from the late 60s and 70s.
The most intriguing vintage shop I ever visited was in Adelaide . They owned a dress from the 50s that caused everyone to feel horrible even those that just touched it on the rack. in the end they moved it to the back room where the staff still reported feeling unsettled if they came across it. Eventually they got rid of the dress. It's like that with all vintage clothes. You never know what happened to the person who once wore that garment…
I love a visit to a clairvoyant too. I reckon paying someone to talk about YOU for an hour is money well spent! Sometimes things they've told me have happened but I do tend to forget a lot of the stuff they tell me. I probably only remember what I want to. The way I'd describe the experience is more like someone revealing your state of mind. It's like being read from the inside out.
Combining vintage clothes and psychics is how The Red Cardigan unravelled.What would happen if a girl with a sixth sense, perhaps a girl not comfortable or sure about such a gift, ends up owning a piece of clothing that once belonged to a girl who met a terrible end - a girl who is unable to rest in peace????
I interviewed people with psychic abilities. The one thing they had in common was that they found it difficult to make friends. To me it seemed these people existed on the outer fringes. So when I created the character of Evie, I needed her to be like this too.
I chose a cardigan as the piece of clothing for Evie to have because it had to be something she wore every day. She wears it with her school uniform, allowing the troubled Athena, the girl who once wore the cardigan, to find a way into Evie's life as early as page 5.
‘Evie climbs the stairs to her bedroom, takes off her cardigan and goes to hang it over the chair. Hiding inside the shoulder seam is a tiny knot of hair. She pulls it out and holds it up to the light. It's the colour of dark copper.
A sharp pain strikes the back of Evie's head. She slumps onto the bed trying to catch her breath. Her throat is making a rasping noise that sounds like it's coming from the other side of the room...'
FINDING ATHENA POULOS
To keep the story ‘real' I had to figure out how to make the disappearance of Athena something that wasn't in the news. I decided she should come from another city in another state. I chose Adelaide as I was there for the Festival and to me Adelaide seemed to have a history of spooky and strange cases. However, my dilemma of how to make the disappearance of Athena a low profile case still wasn't solved - until I met Con, my Greek taxi driver. One afternoon he drove me around the Mile End area where Athena disappears. We discussed my predicament and he advised me, ‘Make her Greek. We would get the family to look for a missing daughter before the police. Perhaps she didn't want to go through with her arranged marriage so the family think she's just run away.' So thanks to Con that day I gave a name to the girl who once owned the red cardigan. I called her Athena Poulos.
That afternoon was productive in many ways. I took lots of photos around the Keswick area - wheat silos, old railway tracks, wire fences and trees the shape of triangles. These images formed the clues that led Evie to Athena. When I visit schools I show the slides from that day so the students can see the same things Evie saw. (see article ‘J.C. Burke visits Barrenjoey High School to talk about her new novel The Red Cardigan .' SCAN , VOL 23 No 4 Nov 2004). Seeing the slide show is very exciting for those who have read the book and the ones that haven't usually go and read it straight away.