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The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp by Leonie Agnew

“When I wake up, I’m not alone”.

So begins the new novel from the immense talent of Leonie Agnew. The arresting start quickly draws the reader into the world of literary magic with The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp. The novel was the winner of the Tessa Duder Award through Storylines for an unpublished manuscript.

Without a doubt, it is the world of literature that captures the heart of Angew in the new book, the opportunity to escape the humdrum of everyday life and immerse oneself - quite literally - into the world of other authors.

The novel centres on the eponymous Hannah Kemp, a young person with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her dad is Filipino and teaches English, and her mum is a deputy principal at the local intermediate school. Oh, and she was adopted when she was 4 years old. It’s clear from a very early stage that there is something unusual about Hannah and her ability to notice what other people seem to miss.

It’s her dad’s teachings that resonate throughout the novel. He suggests that everything that everyone is going through can be found in some of the classic novels - that’s what makes them timeless and ‘classic’. The universal nature of humanity can be found beautifully expressed in the pages of all those old dusty books on bookshelves the Western World over. Certainly, throughout The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp there is a thread of Hannah’s book companion Frankenstein which rears its head every now and again to add to the literary dimension.

When a mobile book shop appears in her town, Hannah becomes on a journey of discovery through the books that are available to her. As she reads the narratives in the books she borrows, she finds them explained and explored in her own life. It’s a revelation that proves that the books really do echo reality and that she can use the books to help and heal her.

It’s a mind bend of a book, but thoroughly entertaining and keeps the reader guessing about the outcome for Hannah. The writing craft is expert, and Agnew once again demonstrates her strength in plaiting together several storylines into a cohesive and intriguing story.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Walker Books


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