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By: Stephen Don

all things must pass

Pages: 148 Ratings: 4.3
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all things must pass is the story of Martin Wilson – a disturbed youth with a penchant for knives, Bruce Lee, and samurai films. Martin scours the streets of Chelsea for victims and lives in a fantasy world which he filters through his hyperactive imagination. At one moment Martin is Zorro, leaving his mark as a warning to his enemies; in the next, he has transformed into a rhinoceros charging at the plate glass window of an antique shop. But beneath the hard surface of this wild young man, there is a quieter and more thoughtful person struggling to be heard. When Martin is moved from a safe house in London to an institution in the countryside, he finds himself at odds with his new surroundings. He has a lot of growing up to do and life is lurking in the wings to trip him up and teach him some hard lessons. Martin does return to London eventually and it is here that Cupid’s arrow pierces his armour, turning his world upside down. The transformation wrought in his heart and soul sets him on the road to acceptance and maturity.

Stephen Don is an award-winning screenwriter from Co. Down. Before becoming a writer, Stephen travelled widely and lived abroad for a number of years. He has been an actor, a teacher, an office dogsbody, a gravedigger, a barman, and a nursing assistant. All things must pass is Stephen’s first novel. 

Customer Reviews
4 reviews
4 reviews
  • Antrobus

    All things must pass will not be everyone's cup of tea. Those who turn aside from Joyce's Ulysses with a weary shake of the head, or who lose the thread of the narrative in Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury before they have turned the opening page, will most likely not be drawn in by Stephen Don's dense little novel. It is the first novel and, as such, is a very daring enterprise in terms of style. For Mr Don makes no concession whatsoever to the frail sensibilities of the average reader. I fear he is not in the least interested in the average reader. He is akin to Coleridge's Ancient Mariner who stoppeth one of three. He has composed his novel as an interior monologue from start to finish. The protagonist, Martin Wilson, is a farouche young man with sociopathic tendencies and the marriage of form and content takes the reader on a journey into the mind and soul of Martin. That this character is alienated from society in some profound ways is apparent from the first few lines. With no punctuation whatsoever, the reader is forced to submit to the rhythms of muscular prose that works best in scenes of graphic violence that are both funny and disturbing at one and the same time. One is reminded in these scenes of Anthony Burgess' dystopic vision of society in A Clockwork Orange. But stick with Mr Don and his rhythmic, rumbling prose and something else is revealed beyond the violent imagination of this disturbed youth. In broken shards of memories, a different Martin is slowly revealed to the reader. Beneath the surface of alienation and anger, there is a more gentle and discerning young man struggling to break free of the fetters of the past. It takes a number of traumatic experiences to wrench Martin from the comfort zone of his fantasies and confronts him with the real world, the world of connectedness and responsibilities. The book's title, indeed, comes from an encounter with an old tramp in Hackney. Learning that this seemingly broken old man had once lived the high life of a rock musician and had lost everything he loved in a terrible fire, Martin begins to see how relative are his own problems. I found the novel to be ultimately a work of hope and redemption.

  • Tecumseh

    I really enjoyed reading all things must pass. I like novels with a little bit of a challenge, and the challenge presented with this novel is its style. Call it an interior monologue or free direct speech, but the lack of punctuation wasn't a stumbling block for me. I dived straight in and just went with the flow of the story. And it's a funny and entertaining story, but it also contains pathos and not a little heartache. The central character, Martin Wilson, is obsessed with knives and Bruce Lee and samurai movies. But he's also yearning to come to terms with the world. So I guess you could say, the story is one of growth and development: as Martin struggles towards an understanding of himself and his place in the world, so we see his anger dissipate and be replaced by a mature commitment to life. I can recommend this novel to those who enjoy language at its most expressive.

  • Donald Swain

    I've got to start this review by saying that I am a huge fan of Irish writing, particularly 20th-century Irish novels. I say this because Stephen Don's novel has leanings toward the modernism of Joyce and Beckett: there is no punctuation and the prose flows in a stream-of-consciousness style that reminds me of the last chapter of Joyce's Ulysses. That makes it all sound a bit heavy-going, which it is not. The central character, Martin Wilson, is a wild youth given to violent fantasies. He has a lot of growing up to do. His literary ancestor, if you will, is Brendan Behan's borstal boy and there is a manic quality to Mr Don's descriptions of Martin's inner life and his violent imagination. Indeed, there is a Walter Mitty quality to Martin Wilson and there is great fun to be found in the pages of all things must pass. At times, the prose rises to the kind of dry irony that Sam Beckett pulled off so admirably. But the world that Martin Wilson inhabits is not a Beckettian universe: there is no sustained pessimism of outlook. As I reached the end of the book, I was left with a strong feeling of hope and redemption. I can recommend this novel to those who like their literary fare with plenty of spice.

  • John Simmonds

    This is an extraordinarily well-written story. The synopsis does not begin to describe the deeply raw depiction of the protagonist’s experience of his reality. Violent at times but evoking pathos simultaneously. Bloody brilliant.

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