all their minds in tandem review

‘All Their Minds in Tandem’ is the debut novel by David Sanger. Published by Quercus books, it follows various characters in New Georgetown a decade after the American Civil War. How their lives intertwine and how they’re stalked by a mysterious danger will keep you on your toes…

As you may have noticed, I’m trying my best to read more debut novels. I recently went to a talk by Janet Ellis and she said a lot about the particular magic that can be found in someone’s first book, and I absolutely agree. I thought that the magic in this novel was especially noticeable. Not just because the protagonist, Emerson, was able to weave a web of magic through memories and stories, but because the novel harbours a particular type of ferocity and vibrance that I haven’t come across in recent reads.

I was originally drawn to the novel because it was being likened to ‘Twin Peaks’. I can see why this is – many of the characters’ lives intersect at surprising moments, there’s a mysterious danger in the woods, and darkness can be found in even the most intimate and loving relationships. All of this was golden. However, I don’t think this is necessarily the ‘book form’ of ‘Twin Peaks’. The historical setting is too important in ‘All Their Minds in Tandem’ to be a direct comparison. War, and the lasting impression it has on every single member of New Georgetown, was explored so beautifully and sensitively in a way that ‘Twin Peaks’ just doesn’t. The impressions of war are different from the impressions of murder, I think (although the novel contains those too), and the various attempts at living and thriving after the horrors of war really struck a chord with me.

The novel doesn’t stick to Emerson’s point-of-view, something which I normally don’t like all that much, because invariably there’s a character I find boring or annoying. But in this, every single character is just so intriguing! I could have easily read a novel twice the length just to get a better understanding of everyone’s past experiences. The one criticism I have is that some pivotal relationships are left, in my mind, a little too ambiguous. Kittie and Chester, Odell and The Bird, and Odell and Ora spring to mind. However, this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the novel.

Intricate, horrifying, and deeply mysterious, ‘All Their Minds in Tandem’ is a book that cannot be missed.

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