Books & Literature

Book Review: Impossible Music, by Sean Williams

This is the story of a boy’s love of music and how he must learn to appreciate it in a different way when he finds himself unable to hear.

Impossible Music is beautifully written and easy to read.

Sean Williams is a bestselling science fiction author, born in Whyalla, and living in Adelaide, South Australia. He has had over eighty short stories and thirty-nine novels published including Twinmaker and the Troubletwisters. He has been awarded multiple Ditmar and Aurealis awards and has debuted at #1 on the “New York Times” bestseller list.

Growing up, Williams’ other love was music and it was a toss-up as to whether he would become a writer or a musician. In this story, he has been able to combine both his loves.

Impossible Music has veered totally away from his usual genres of sci-fi and fantasy. This story is also heavily based on his life as a University student. It is almost autobiographical. Williams has used what he knows best and made Adelaide the backdrop of the story. We read about Adelaide University, Festival Theatre and other suburbs of Adelaide. It is nice to have a story set around familiar landmarks.

This story is about Simon, who is in his final year at high school and loves music. It is his whole life. But one day he wakes up and is unable to hear. Overnight he has had a stroke, causing cortical deafness, something so rare there are only twelve other recoded cases. Simon now has to navigate the world of the Deaf. His friends can no longer converse in the way they always have, he and his family are all grieving his hearing loss, and if he doesn’t have music in his life, what will he do?

He resists the changes in his life that are inevitable. He doesn’t want to learn Auslan (Australian Sign Language), he doesn’t want to stop playing in his punk rock band, and he doesn’t want counselling.

Impossible Music follows Simon as he tries to come to terms with his new life and what that will look like. He meets G, a girl suffering from Tinnitus, which has caused her hearing loss. She is tough but also dealing with issues of her own. Can someone who doesn’t hear still have a life with music? Will he still be able to find a place studying music at university? How determined is he and will he do anything to realise his dreams?

We also meet Simon’s annoying younger sister, Maeve, who is actually one of his greatest allies; parents who are divorced and don’t really get on very well, but will do anything to help him navigate this new world; and friends who love to play music with him in the garage. There are also the counsellors and teachers who try to find a way to help Simon function in his new world without hearing.

It is a story about the joy and pain of young love, loss, and finding your way as you navigate the unknown.

Impossible Music is beautifully written and easy to read. Williams has a way with words which allows the text to easily flow. It is one of the reasons he has been so successful in his writing career. Those who are expecting his usual story may be disappointed but if you are interested in looking into the world of the newly deaf and are a lover of music, this may be the book for you.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: July 2019
RRP: $19.99

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