A new Thea Astley novel is always a significant literary event, and discerning readers will not be disappointed with what promises to be her best effort yet - An Item from The Late News. Wafer is a Bomb Age Baby. Legend has it he was born to an Australian father and a Swedish mother in Europe just before World War II, and as a young child saw his father blown apart by a bomb during the London Blitz. His own shell-shocked youth has been an aimless drifting through boarding schools, odd jobs, and hippie trails all over the world. Finally, he lands exhausted in Allbut, a small and decaying mining town somewhere in Queensland. Haunted by the modern-day myth of nuclear holocaust, Wafer seeks the perfect bomb shelter. And what better place to build your shelter than Allbut, Australia? Allbut, however, considers itself a clean and decent town, and it is soon clear that Wafer does not belong there. He is kind to Aborigines, helpful to travelling strangers, and - Worst of all - he doesn't drink. A valuable gem stone, found by Wafer in the middle of nowhere on his way to Allbut, is misunderstood by the impoverished townspeople as evidence of a secret strike . . . and what is the town to make of Wafer's friendship with thirteen-year-old Emmeline, a strange and beautiful enfant terrible? As Christmas approaches, tensions and temperatures soar, unleashing the town's hostility towards Wafer, driving on to the story's brutal climax. Thea Astley's chilling story of a misfit's clash with parochial values is set against a fabulous array of myths - classical, modern, intriguing compounds of the two - giving the novel unusual resonance and power.
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October 1983 : Australia Hardback
May 1984 : UK Paperback