A ‘dazzling’ literary memoir about the author’s attempt to unravel the mysteries of her delinquent father

When Lily Dunn was just six years old, her father left the family home to follow his guru to India, trading domestic life for clothes dyed in oranges and reds and the promise of enlightenment with the cult of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Since then he has been a mystery to her.

She grew up enthralled by the image of him; effervescent, ambitious and elusive, a writer, publisher and entrepreneur, a man who would appear with gifts from faraway places, and with whom she spent the long, hot summers of her teenage years in Italy, in the company of his wild and wealthy friends.
Yet he was also a compulsive liar, a delinquent, a man who abandoned his responsibilities in a pursuit of transcendence that took him from sex addiction, via the Rajneesh cult, to a relentless chase of money, which ended in ruin and finally addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.

A detective story that charts two colliding narratives, Sins of My Father is a daughter’s attempt to unravel the mysteries of a father who believed himself to be beyond reproach. A dazzling work of literary memoir, it asks how deep legacies of shame and trauma run, and if we can reconcile unconditional love with irreparable damage.

Jenny Lord says: ‘SINS OF MY FATHER is a memoir with multiple facets, but at its heart it is an interrogation of whether it is possible to continue to love someone who has caused incredible damage – a question that so many of us wrestle with. Lily’s writing is dazzling, and her story has the kind of intoxicating forward momentum that keeps you glued to your seat. We are so excited to publish her here at W&N’

SINS OF MY FATHER: A Daughter, a Cult, a Wild Unravelling will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in hardback, audio and ebook in March 2022.

 REVIEWS

Dunn tries to make sense of her fractured relationship with a charismatic man who enthralled her, but who was also a shambolic and at times shockingly unfit parent. A tremendously good memoir; a page-turning story of family complexity, and strikingly talented writing. CAROLINE SANDERSON – EDITOR’S CHOICE, THE BOOKSELLER

SINS OF MY FATHER is Dunn’s attempt to know her father, constantly on the move, impossible to rely on . . . she puts it together as if she is a detective working a long-forgotten cold case, and though its setting is very different, it reminded me of Laura Cummings’ gripping memoir, On Chapel Sands . . . there is beauty in its crisp, cold clarity . . . as vivid an account of addiction as I can remember reading. Sins of My Father is a testament to the damage done, but it reads, in the end, like the slow discovery of freedom’  REBECCA NICHOLSON – THE GUARDIAN – BOOK OF THE DAY

Considerable courage is needed to return to the stark, bright light of trauma in this shirking-nothing way; but writing of this intensity has delivered an astonishing and valuable memoir. JULIET NICOLSON – THE SPECTATOR

A superb memoir SINS OF MY FATHER is a terrific read, beautifully written and expertly structured… The book pulls off the difficult trick of laying bare just how morally bankrupt Lily’s father was, while making the reader understand why she didn’t give up on him until the very end. CONSTANCE CRAIG-SMITH – THE DAILY MAIL – BOOK OF THE WEEK 

With Jung as her guide, Dunn charts her father’s psycho-social development with a forensic eye, repeatedly asking the reader to consider generational accountability in our appraisal of mental illness… Such clear-headed poignancy on the impossibility of ever truly leaving the cult of the parent is what makes this memoir extraordinary. Once read, it will stay with you. ARABELLA BYRNE, THE CRITIC

I was obsessed with SINS OF MY FATHER, a memoir which combines the emotional and the cerebral in telling the story of a life through the prism of a father’s influence. The stories of the children of hippies, or parents who chose experimental lifestyles, is fascinating and fertile territory and although this story is Lily’s own, she also speaks for a cohort. It is a victory of self-knowledge and compassion, as well as art – AMY LIPTROT

SINS OF MY FATHER is forensic in its compassion and precise in its love: an extraordinary account of an extraordinary life that produces great empathy for the universals of human frailty – JENN ASHWORTH

SINS OF MY FATHER is an intensely gripping memoir about the love between a daughter and a father. There’s no end to the ways this father tests his loved ones. He leaves his wife and children, joins a cult, becomes an alcoholic, chases after get-rich-quick schemes… Yet still his family keeps on trying and hoping for the best. A heart-stoppingly brilliant read that is as brutal and funny as it is raw and candid. I really wanted the craziness to stop — but I never wanted this book to end — VIV GROSKOP

In SINS OF MY FATHER Lily Dunn has created an almost forensic analysis of the curse of the Charismatic Dad – on himself, his family and specifically here on his little daughter, who grows up under the desperate double shadow cast by addiction and devoted love, and finally in this memoir does all the painstaking, heartbreaking, ultimately fulfilling work that her father couldn’t do – LOUISA YOUNG

SINS OF MY FATHER is a moving story about a golden, gifted family and their paradise lost. About a daughter escaping the dense gravitational pull of a charismatic father through the act of writing. By turns tender and forensic, loving then fierce, this book will speak to anyone who has had to love and let go – TANYA SHADRICK

SINS OF MY FATHER is stunning. Beautifully crafted and brutally honest, it’s a totally mesmerising journey through the outer limits of love – DAVID WHITEHOUSE

SINS OF MY FATHER is a powerful, necessary, brilliantly brave book. It is superlative; it hums and flies and sings. It is moving and true – MARINA BENJAMIN

In this compelling memoir Dunn confronts the legacies of trauma and dysfunction that surround her complicated father. She writes with searing honesty and clarity, exploring what it means to step away from the shadow of our family and find our own voice – LULAH ELLENDER

SINS OF MY FATHER is a devastating work of love, pain and hope. Lily has created art and insight from chaos, joy and suffering – SOFKA ZINOVIEFF

 In SINS OF MY FATHER Lily Dunn deftly explores the complexity of her father’s choices; it’s a startling book that will resonate with anyone who’s loved a difficult parent and spent a lifetime trying to work them out – ALI MILLAR

A WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE: Edited by Lily Dunn and Zoe Gilbert

We will all experience recovery at some point in our lives, whether from addiction, physical illness, mental health issues or loss. Many of us heal, and we may discover ways to live with our changed selves, to reclaim a life. We may find a new voice, or unearth a voice that has been submerged.

Vitally, recovery can mean community. This anthology represents a community of writers new, unheard voices alongside emerging and established authors. Their are stories from the dark back alleys, the deep crevices of the mind, and from the wild, ecstatic heights of life before, during and after recovery. These are voices that urgently need to be heard, in all their variety.

Reviews

‘I loved the array of voices. I also loved how unapologetically vulnerable and real each piece was. Addiction is often glossed over and its causes and difficulties misunderstood. I cannot recall ever reading such gritty accounts and this is vital if we are to begin to provide the correct support to those in need.’ Anna Reid all.about.it

‘I really loved how it emphasises the importance of writing and creativity in different forms on the road to healing and recovery.’ Alicjawrites

‘A Wild and Precious Life is a really special book. I found it moving, powerful, and very human.’ By Alice Violett

‘Pulling together an eclectic band of voices covering a wide expanse of experiences this collection has held me captive over the last few days. It oozes honesty, humility, pain, vulnerability as well as hope, inspiration and courage.’ agirlandabook85

‘This book undoubtedly represents some deep feelings of virtually every variety, and represents the honest attempts of many people to reflect how every life is precious, however wild, challenging or disappointing, but also how hope survives and different ways of living can be achieved. I recommend this book for its honesty, its artistry, and its variety of lived experiences.’  Northern Reader

SHADOWING THE SUN is a story about the lasting impact of betrayal. We meet Sylvie as an adult on the cusp of settling down, but restless and finding it difficult to commit to fiancé Jack. She is also preparing to meet her father again after years apart, unable to move on from the events of one summer she spent with him in his commune just outside Florence when she was 12 years old. In deft and compelling prose, Lily Dunn tells the parallel stories of Sylvie’s present and past – the anxious week in London waiting for her father, and the summer in Italy that started so promisingly, but ended with such betrayal and loss of innocence.

Reviews

‘A funny, harrowing and ultimately heartbreaking glimpse into the tribes of a lost continent: the children of the Seventies ‘Me’ generation, with their inheritance of wild freedom and poisonous neglect. I both laughed and cried. Seen through the cut-glass mosaic of Lily’s sharp perceptive talent, the book becomes something new: not just a recollection but a gift, to the past and to us. Full of a hard won, lonely kind of gratitude.’ Tim Guest, author of My Life in Orange.

‘A heart-rending account of a young girl’s loss of innocence… told in limpid prose, seeped in the prickly heat of a Tuscan summer.’ Time Out.

‘The sins of the father are mercilessly explored in Lily Dunn’s impressive and confident first novel.’ The Sunday Times.