Review Blog

Jul 24 2019

Impossible music by Sean Williams

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760637156
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Simon is a young musician with his own band. He loves creating music, it means everything to him. He wants to go on to study music at university. And then one night he is struck deaf, by a stroke that destroys the part of the brain that hears. He has cortical deafness, an extremely rare form of sensorineural hearing loss. He becomes obsessed by what that means for music and sound - can there be music without hearing? Can he create music that is silent? Williams explores these questions in a way that intrigues without being too difficult to understand.
Simon gradually develops a friendship with another newly deaf person - George, a girl, whose deaf name is the sign for the letter G with an extra twist evoking her love of coffee. She has the inverse problem to him - tinnitus, so loud and so obtrusive, that it wipes out any other sound - another form of deafness. Simon thinks he is being the helpful understanding friend, giving her space to adjust, but gradually comes to realise that perhaps he is the person most in need of help and support in adjusting to his new circumstances.
Williams' descriptions of relationships is so authentic: the tentative newly budding romance between Simon and G, Simon's relationship with his confrontative struggling sole-parent mother, his relationship with his opted-out equally music obsessed father, and his annoying but caring sister, Maeve. Every reader can relate to these situations.
I can highly recommend this book as a story of finding one's identity in overwhelmingly changed circumstances, the struggle to reach better understanding of relationships with the most significant people in one's life, and also an insightful portrayal of what it really means to be deaf. Williams is a skilled writer; the chapters are short, each adds another layer to the story and carries you along to a conclusion that is positive and optimistic.
Helen Eddy

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