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Mixtape by Jane Sanderson - Review

Monday, February 8, 2021

This book has very much the feel of a YA novel which I really liked, because it felt very present and very immediate, but it's also about two older people falling in love, so I liked it because I don't often read books about people in their fifties falling in love. Then of course there's the music, which I always like to read about. My friend Helen put this on her list of best books of the year, and I liked the sound of it, so I ordered it and picked it up almost immediately. 

So, in 2013, a music journalist called Dan Lawrence is living his life in Edinburgh with his partner Katelin and their son Alex. He's friends with Duncan, who owns a record shop, and his wife Rose-Ann. Kateline and Rose-Ann decide to do an America road trip. Dan also owns a houseboat in London which he uses when he travels down to see gigs and so on. I wouldn't say he's unhappy, but maybe just bored with life, perhaps. He's around fifty-three years old.

Then his old friend Kev Carter mentions on Twitter that their old friend Alison Connor is on Twitter, and that she's a bestselling author! Dan is immediately thrown back to the late 70s, in Sheffield, when he fell in love with Alison Connor and how she left him, heartbroken and upset, and unable to put his life back together until he met Katelin four years later. 

Dan sends a message to Alison, a link to Elvis Costello's Pump It Up, and over the next few weeks the two send music back and forth to each other, and sparks fly between them.

Alison, now better known as Ali, now lives in Adelaide with her husband Michael McCormack and their daughters Thea and Stella. Michael is from an old Adelaide family with plenty of money and a sheep station up north, and a live in housekeeper, Beatriz. He and Ali met when she was travelling in Spain, and her took her back to Australia as his bride. She is an author. She has a reckless best friend called Cass, and is in touch with Sheila, who used to know her mother back home in Sheffield. 

There are also flashbacks in the book, where we're in Sheffield in 1978, when Daniel and Alison, aged eighteen and sixteen, fall in love. They fall in love over music. Alison's home life is chaotic - her mother Catherine is an alcoholic, and she has an abusive boyfriend called Martin. Alison's brother Peter tries to protect her from everything, but she's still a mixed up kind of kid. But in Daniel she finds solace, especially among his family with his kind dad and guileless sister Claire. Daniel's mum Marion is somewhat wary of her, sure that she will eventually break Daniel's heart. And indeed, throughout the book, we learn how she did that. 

As I say, I really liked the book and loved how it talked about love, and loss, and nostalgia, and music. I'd highly recommend this!

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