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Betts, A. J.: Wave Length.

** BETTS, A. J. Wave Length Fremantle Press, 2010 236pp $17.95 pbk ISBN 9781921696305 SCIS 1463701

The evocative title along with the brief scientific equations at the head of each chapter would seem to indicate perhaps a science fiction novel or even a so-called docu-fiction but ... Mum and Dad are divorced or at least separated in that Dad (Jim) has hit the road and single Mum (Susan) is forced to earn a living to support her three children of assorted ages. The chaotic domestic scenes are all horribly familiar but soon the somewhat obnoxious Oliver reveals the real cause of his disquiet: at a Careers Expo he has decided that Geology would provide him with entry to the Good Life. The rub is that he needs to achieve 80% in a looming exam. This becomes his obsession, but like a good mother Susan packs him off to his father who is living out of Perth on the coast near Bunbury.

In the train south Oliver goes to sleep, is woken to find his father waiting nonchalantly at the Bunbury terminus and that his bags containing all his study notes have been stolen. Left with only the clothes he is wearing, Oliver ends up at the Leisure Centre where his father is now a pool attendant living with an old fisherman mate in the most basic of huts. With no clothes, no books, no real place to study, the object of derision by some of the locals and of curiosity or disinterest by the remainder Oliver is disconsolate. How he works through the situation, his relations with a bevy of stereotypical old ladies and a perceptive old Professor is the real intent of this fable. For it really is a fable about choices and values; about contrasting life-styles; the jigsaw of life. Then there is the powerfully poetic moment when Oliver experiences an epiphany and the reader, too, looks beneath gaucheries and even uncouthness to the yearning heart beneath.

** Book by an Australian author or illustrator

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Author:Saxby, Maurice
Publication:Reading Time
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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