A story of young love and loss set on two continents and spanning 30 years.
Jane Sanderson is an English writer and journalist who has worked as a producer of two shows on BBC Radio 4. Mix Tape is her fifth book.
Mix Tape is about a girl called Alison and a boy called Daniel. They lived in Sheffield, England and they were young and in love. It is a story of first love. Do we ever really forget our first love? And what happens if we have unfinished business? This story alternates between 1978 and 2012.
In 2012, Daniel still lives in England where he is involved in the music industry. He is married and has one son. Alison has moved to the other side of the world and now lives in Adelaide. She has married a doctor called Michael, who is a member of a family with money. They live in the old family home in the suburb of North Adelaide. She has two daughters and has just had a book published which is an overnight success.
One day Alison sees Dan’s name on her phone. She is immediately transported back to 1979 when she was only 16 and living in Sheffield. It brings back the good memories and the painful ones. We then follow their story back and forth over a few months as Daniel and Alison, with their love of music in common, exchange only songs, each able to choose exactly the right song to both explain their feelings and bring back memories of the past. Each of them can’t wait to find out what song has been chosen next.
In 1979 Dan had made Alison a mix tape, and she rediscovers it in her attic, the only thing she has kept from that time in her life. Why is this all she has left from her past? What caused her to move all the way to Australia?
I’ve seen a few books in recent times that use song lyrics to add to the story. This one is slightly different in that it doesn’t use the lyrics, just the name of the song. At the beginning of the book there is a list of the songs mentioned and a link to a Spotify play list so we can listen as we read. A nice idea.
Sometimes stories like this can be repetitive but I found it moved along at a good pace, introducing some lovely characters along the way. We have Sheila, an old English hippy who now lives in Quorn and quirky Lisa and Frank who live on a canal boat in London. Each of these people are a step removed from the everyday lives of Alison and Dan and are able to offer sage advice as they navigate through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. Beatriz, the housekeeper of Alison and Michael, is full of love for the family she has cared for her whole life.
The descriptive passages about England, Scotland and South Australia are not too lengthy, but just enough to help the reader have a sense of place.
Written in the third person, Mix Tape is a story of young love, family, loss and music. It is a sad and painful journey at times. I really enjoyed this story, particularly having it set in two places I know well. It is worth a read.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: January 2020