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Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Hi everyone! I had a horrible reading month in February (this was the only book I read!) so I thought I would do a dedicated review for it. It was an excellent book. Keep reading to hear my thoughts! 


Told in alternating perspectives, Tangerine tells the story of newly-wed Alice Shipley as she navigates the formidable and uncharted landscape of Tangier in 1956 while confronting her difficult past.

The bustle of the markets, the sweltering heat and culture shock leave Alice feeling isolated in Tangier, Morocco, a far cry from her hometown of London, England. But when former college roommate Lucy Mason makes a surprise appearance in Tangier, after years of separation, Alice’s confusion and reluctance to accept her former best friend proves to exasperate her anxieties over her new life and dark past. While struggling to come to terms with her husband’s love affair with not only the city, and with Lucy’s unexplained presence, Alice paranoia grows stronger as the country strives for independence.

One could be alone but entirely dependent, like Alice. She was alone at Bennington, and she was alone here. . . I was another species although.

I really enjoyed this book, but because of a crazy work schedule and the Olympics, I read it over the course of a month. Had I read it in a few sittings, I think I would have picked up on some of the more minute and eerie details (some of which I’m gathering now going through my notes) and enjoyed it all the more.

There are numerous overlaps in the story, showing both Alice’s and Lucy’s accounts of different situations. Their interpretations of the events and feelings towards one another are often at odds, whether it was how they first met, the incident about the bracelet or their perceived friendship in Morocco. These overlaps add an element of intrigue, as it’s difficult to gauge who has a more accurate account of the situation. The perspectives each seem believable until reading from the other when you begin to question the validity of the previous statements while trying to reconcile the two accounts.
The differences in personality also make for unique dialogue. Alice is riddled with self-doubt and is constantly questioning her own sanity, wondering if it is Lucy and those around her trying to fool her or if it is her own mind playing tricks. Lucy, on the other hand, is courageous, outspoken and adventurous, yet she has an unhealthy relationship with the things and people in her life.  The story shows Alice’s fixation on the accident in her final year and Bennington, her internal struggles between trusting Lucy and questioning her manipulative personality.

My studies began to suffer, but I didn’t mind. Tom was my major now—and my life, my happiness, depended on knowing everything about him.

One of the things that drew me to this book was the writing style. It felt like you were sitting in a bar, listening to the story from this engaging femme noir, cigarette in hand in a smoke-filled, dimly lit room. It felt like the way Truman Capote intended Breakfast at Tiffany’s to be read, from the perspective of another, intimately involved character recalling the story.  

The language was also very meaningful, playing on the relationship between both Alice and Lucy and Tangier and the tangerines. Mangan shows what it’s like to live in this romantic, exotic setting while feeling like a stranger, and how the setting parallels Alice’s feeling towards other elements in her life.

We are talking about the oppressor and the oppressed, aren’t we? What topic could be more sensitive than that?

While the story was captivating and engaging, it was the ending that really stood out to me. While I won’t risk spoiling it, it was not what I had envisioned, and I was pleasantly surprised with how the story played out. I think those of you who love slow burning mysteries and/or historical fiction would love this book, but I would still recommend it to almost anyone.