POPULAR FICTION  – Jan 16, 2020


MIXTAPE by Jane Sanderson (Bantam £12.99, 416 pp)


by Jane Sanderson (Bantam £12.99, 416 pp)

Back in 1970s Sheffield, teenage pop obsessives Dan and Alison were madly in love. But then Alison disappeared.

While Dan has since moved, married and hit middle-age, he has never forgotten her.Now a wealthy bestselling author living in Australia, Alison re-enters his life when his wife receives one of her books (cue a brilliantly awkward Christmas scene).

Dan finds his former flame online and they start exchanging favourite songs from the past. In no time, the old passion roars back into life. But how will this affect Dan’s family, and Ali’s husband and daughters?

This fantastic, moving, beautiful novel about the power of first love comes with a great post-punk soundtrack, a fabulous period northern setting and bursts of glorious Adelaide sun.


by Jeanine Cummins (Tinder Press £14.99, 480 pp)

This astonishing book is about Mexican migrants trying to reach America. They might not be the people you imagine. Lydia is an Acapulco book-shop owner whose journalist husband is critical of the local druglords. They live a comfortable middle-class life until a family birthday party ends in a massacre.

Lydia’s husband has annoyed a powerful cartel. He’s dead, and now his wife and young son must flee for their lives. But the cartel are everywhere.

To reach safety in the U.S., Lydia and Luca must go underground, take the migrant route, forever look over their shoulders and trust no-one.

A nightmare ensues; desperate alliances and split-second decisions risking instant death. The two of them cling to the tops of freight trains and encounter rape, murder, theft and brutality of every possible sort.

And yet amid all the horror are moments of hope, friendship, kindness and love. An absolutely unforgettable read.


by Libby Page (Orion £12.99, 416 pp)

Stella’s is a slightly boho all-night café in London’s Liverpool Street. We follow its staff and customers through one 24-hour cycle.

A great premise, though what draws people there, in the small hours particularly, can make depressing reading.

There’s Dan, a tragic homeless student. Divided lovers Joe and Haziq. Post-natally-depressed Monique. Jobless Paul. Elderly Harry and Martha, snatching a final chance of happiness.

For them all, Stella’s offers lattes, sympathy and random acts of kindness.

I found it all a tad schmaltzy and gloomy but enjoyed the insights into the performer’s life supplied by the resting dancer and singer waitresses. And the writing is lovely, as is the impression of the restless city and all the people it contains.

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