I was given an advance review copy for free in exchange for an honest review.
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Ben Dunn has not been trafficking marijuana to his high school students. He has, however, been intimate with one, which is probably why the authorities come looking for him one afternoon. After a night spent in the drunk-tank, Ben commissions his friend’s help in planning a revenge-plot against the fellow teacher he blames for his forced removal from the school. In the end, however, he just wants to begin anew. To have his name cleared. To fix the things he’s broken. And to go back and undo the awful things he’s done. But he’s stuck in the present, where the past lingers and the future looms.
‘Shakespeare should have ended the play with Hamlet’s final words. But the end is never where we want it. The way something ends—such as life or love—can be as unpredictable and removed from reason as the way it begins.’
I was sitting-slash-leaning sideways against the desk at the front of the room when I said this, one knee up, shoulders square to the class. Like I was getting my picture taken. I read in Teacher Man that it’s a more confident looking pose than the one where you keep both feet on the ground, hands clasped in your lap. Hard to tell, though, when you’re the one posing.
Regardless, it’s a limited posture. I don’t see it working in any other stage-like context.
I loved All My Sins. I absolutely loved it. I started to read it late last night and fell asleep over it at 2am and resumed reading as soon I woke up. You know a books great when you absolutely have to pick it up again.
I love the first person narrator Sneath uses for All My Sins. I really like first person narrators but it can be tricky to pull off so most writers opt for the easier third person narrator. Sneath makes it work a treat in All My Sins. I love the way the novel is written as if Ben, the narrator is telling his life story (confessing his many sins) to Aislin, the love he lost. Sneath even includes little footnotes where Dunn offers additional insight to Aislin (i.e. I said or did this but this was the real motivation). This works really well.
Dunn is a great character. He’s a bit of an anti-hero. He has the best intentions but always manages to fuck it up. He staggers from one disaster to another like a blind man groping in the dark. You know what they say about the road to hell being pathed with good intentions? The choices he makes don’t show him in the best light and he comes across a total asshole at times. But there is something endearing and lovable about him. I wanted to hug him, pat his head and tell him, there, there, it’ll all work out in the end; you just need to stop shooting yourself in the foot. You can’t help root for him and prey he’ll dig his way out of the pit of shit he’s stumbled into eventually.
There are a lot of moments in All My Sins that left me with a lump in my throat. When his Dunn’s father dies and no one can get a hold of him in Ireland because he lost his phone. When Aislin tells him their few day’s together years ago is not significant to her and he believes he’s the father of her child. The times he gets wasted and makes a total arse of himself and everyone around him.
There are a couple of sections where All My Sins takes the form of a play because Dunn wants to accurately record what was said and done. The first time I saw one of these sections I thought oh lord, what the hell is this? Sneath makes this work really well. I thought it was particularly effective when Dunn is arrested for being off his face and trashing a bar.
There is only one thing about All My Sins that niggled me. There are sections where there are several pages of nothing but dialogue. I thought this was too much and should have been broken up with action or reported speech. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of All My Sins. I’m just not a fan of pages of continued dialogue.