Review: Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson


Title: Mix Tape

Author: Jane Sanderson

Published: January 23rd 2020, Bantam Press UK

Status: Read January 2020, courtesy Bantam Press/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

I had been looking forward to reading Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson for a while before it finally came up in my schedule. I am of an age when mix tapes were common. I’d be listening to the radio on my boom box on a Sunday evening, a blank tape in the cassette deck, waiting for the Top 40 to start, with my fingers on the ‘play’ and ‘record’ buttons, poised to catch the opening bars of the whatever song I was hoping to record. We played mix tapes at parties, traded them among friends, and shyly gifted them to our boyfriend/girlfriend. I still have two or three of those tapes, though I no longer have anything to play them on.

Moving between the past and the present, this is the story of Daniel and Alison, who meet as teens in Sheffield, England in 1978. Their romantic relationship is brief, but intense, ending abruptly when Alison is compelled to flee her harrowing home life. Alison’s journey eventually leads her to Australia, and in 2012 she is a bestselling novelist, married with two near-adult daughters, when Dan, a music journalist whose home base is in Scotland with his wife and college bound son, receives a tweet from an old friend directing him to the profile of @AliConnorWriter. When Dan finally reaches out to the woman who has haunted his dreams for decades, he does so with a music video that speaks to a seminal moment in their relationship, ‘Pump It Up’ – Elvis Costello and the Attractions, 1978.

“No words, no message. Only the song, speaking for itself.”

Mix Tape is unapologetically a love story, a tale of soulmates forcibly parted, and then reunited after a separation of thirty years.

Sanderson wonderfully captures the intensity of Daniel and Alison’s connection as teenagers. Dan, sweet and steady, is infatuated with the beautiful and enigmatic Alison. Alison, whose home life is chaotic and neglectful, basks in Dan’s admiration and returns his desire. When she leaves they are both devastated, aware they have lost something special.

When Dan and Ali reconnect decades later, they initially communicate only by trading songs via Twitter that remind them of their relationship, and then songs whose lyrics speak to their growing desires. I’m in my mid forties so I wasn’t particularly familiar with a fair amount of the music referenced in Mix Tape, and I found myself having to stop and search through YouTube on occasion to listen to the song to understand its significance. It’s a delightful idea though, a modern take on those not so subtle cassette mix tapes declaring love

Without sharing a word, despite all the time that has passed, the physical distance between them, and being married to other people, Dan and Alison rekindle the flame. Here is where Sanderson lost me a little, because while the idea of a love that cannot be denied is romantic, that it comes at the expense of others, even if neither of their spouses are particularly likeable, is uncomfortable for me. Still the inevitable reunion is epic, and to the author’s credit I wanted it to happen.

Mix Tape is unapologetically a love story, but it’s also about heartache, nostalgia, loss, forgiveness, and the music. While my feelings about it remain a little mixed, it has its charms.


Available from Bantam Press UK

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jenn J McLeod | Australian Fiction Author
    Jan 18, 2020 @ 08:55:13

    Wow! This sounds fascinating, from both a reader and a writer perspective. I immediately think … copyright! (Only titles can be used… no lyrics, which is why you headed off the You Tube occasionally.) Nice one.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
    Jan 18, 2020 @ 09:01:01

    I like the sound of this one and I’m intrigued to see what 70’s songs the author used.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Marg
    Jan 18, 2020 @ 17:44:40

    This sounds like a lot of fun!

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Mystica
    Jan 18, 2020 @ 18:27:02

    Intrigued by this one.



  5. Liz Dexter
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 04:37:05

    A great idea but like you, I don’t love the idea of just casting aside those other partners for the old flame (weirdly, I’ve done badly with infidelity in books since getting married, even though we’d been together for over a decade before doing so!). Love the cover, though, and I still have a box of mix tapes (and a tape player!).

    Liked by 1 person


  6. Verushka, an editor (@SydneyEditor1)
    Jan 19, 2020 @ 21:11:44

    Oh wow, what an unusual and interesting premise this is. Great review Shelley — and thanks for bringing this onto my radar!~

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  8. Vicki
    Jan 21, 2020 @ 10:16:50

    I think I may read this, even though I too don’t like the idea that love cannot be denied is not right if it comes at the expense of others.

    Liked by 1 person


  9. *Flora*
    Jan 21, 2020 @ 22:29:49

    Is it weird that I STILL have a couple of mix-tapes that boyfriends made for me – they are decades old! 😉



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