The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo – #BookReview

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The Impossible Fairytale (불가능한 동화) by Han Yujoo
Published by Graywolf Press on March 7, 2017
Genres: Korean Books
Pages: 192
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
Buy on Amazon

Synopsis of The Impossible Fairytale:

The Impossible Fairytale tells the story of the nameless ‘Child’, who struggles to make a mark on the world, and her classmate Mia, whose spoiled life is everything the Child’s is not.

At school, adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by soul-crushing hierarchies and an underlying menace. Then, one day after hours, the Child sneaks into the classroom to add ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks, setting in motion a series of cataclysmic events.

(Don’t know where to start with Korean literature? Check out our post – “A Beginner’s Guide to Korean Literature” to help get you started!)

First Sentence:

See the Dog.
See the dog drifting by.”

My Opinion of The Impossible Fairytale:

It was incredible!

The fantastic literary experiment that Han Yujoo did with The Impossible Fairytale was a wonderful trip down a scary and exciting forest path for me. Han Yujoo (and her translator Janet Hong) has a wonderful way of words.

Some parts of the story are a bit out there, but you can easily skip them.
The gems however are when you get to the really scary meta-literary passages full of confusing and enticing power.

(Love Korean Books? Check out the Best Korean Crime and Mystery Thrillers here!)

The Child, a small girl, seems to be a ghost in her own classroom but decides to enter her classroom in the dark and change the words in her classmates’ workbooks. The next day the teacher sees this changes and this sets the stage for the deepening trouble to happen.

“It hurts. Friction spreads through her whole body. But she doesn’t have the luxury of feeling pain. Blood oozes from her chin.” – The Impossible Fairy Tale p.61

The Child and Mia are both set down a scary tunnel of exciting and unnerving consequences. But we too are brought into a sort of dream-like world where there is murder and betrayal.

The meta-literary parts of the The Impossible Fairytale were entirely like Alice in Wonderland, but far worse. Whereas Alice in Wonderland can be easily read by children, The Impossible Fairytale has some actions and themes that would be best for adults.

Check out the Book Review for Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko” here.

But I think the main point of this novel is the question “what is the consequences of writing a novel where you have your characters commit such an awful thing like murder?”

Han Yujoo (the author) needs to comes to grip with what her character has become and what she herself forced her to do by writing the novel. Is the character responsible for her actions? Or is it the author’s responsibility?

“When I look up from the attendance sheet and survey the lecture hall, I spot an unfamiliar face. She wasn’t here the first day of class. Her name isn’t even on the attendance sheet.” – The Impossible Fairy Tale p.156

By creating art through writing, the author creates another world where there is no independence in actions but instead a force of the hand. In this case, the Child comes out of the novel in a sort of strange dream like state where the reader as well as Han Yujoo needs to come to grips with what the story has become.

(Want more book blogs to read? Check out our comprehensive best book blog list here!)

The Impossible Fairytale is like a slippery slope where the reader drops down into a rabbit hole full of impossible but exciting events. It made my hair twitch and my insides gurgle. This is a book which you can’t read anywhere else. The full crushing experience of Korean classroom culture and Korean home life as seen in Our Twisted Hero by Mun-Yol Yi comes to the forefront.

If you love Alice in Wonderland on acid, then this is for you.
It is the ultimate road trip down a dream world of impossibility and slippery images of pain and hate.


The Impossible Fairytale is really an experiment in writing, but because of that is just another experience altogether. You really just to keep reading and immerse yourself in the emotional song of the Han Yujoo’s book.

Some parts can be skipped, but that doesn’t mean you need to toss out the baby with the water.

If you like trance-like states and amazing detail in disturbing classroom life, along with meta-literal thrills, you really need to get this book. It’s something you just need to do.

I would highly recommend The Impossible Fairytale to anyone who is open to out-of-body experiences and to push the limits of their comfort zone.

My Rating: 5/5

Find all details about The Impossible Fairytale on GoodReads and Amazon.

A.J. McMahon
(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

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GoodReads: A.J. McMahon

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