Sunday, April 15, 2018

Book Review: Tangerine

Author: Christine Mangan
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Ecco

“As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock—suspenseful and atmospheric.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, author of The Book of American Martyrs

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. 

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

This story follows the alternating viewpoints of Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason. Alice and her husband, John, have just recently moved to Tangier and Alice is not successfully adapting to her new life there. Then, Lucy Mason shows up unexpectedly, followed by the disappearance of her husband. Alice starts to questions everything around her, including Lucy.

Alice and Lucy are distinctly different characters. Alice is the frail, innocent housewife who seems to be harboring anxiety from past experiences. Lucy is the ambitious, unpredictable friend who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Their characters start to develop very clearly from the start and readers can easily see who is being manipulated and who is doing the manipulating.

A past tragedy, during her college years, keeps Alice from acting on urges or doing anything out of her comfort zone. Readers learn early on that Lucy was possibly involved in this traumatic event that led Alice on a downward spiral and will become immediately suspicious of Lucy’s motives. However, Lucy is intriguing and her perspective is questionable, making her an interesting and versatile unreliable narrator.

Mangan’s writing is atmospheric, poetic, and lyrical. The 1950’s Moroccan setting helps transport readers to a time and place that is vibrant and seemingly almost magical. Mangan writes tension with such expertise. The alternating point of views of Alice and Lucy help add to the suspense as readers try to unravel and understand all that these two women have shared – the good and the bad. Their perspectives often contradict the other, which leaves readers guessing as to who is unreliable or if either of them can be trusted.

The story is dark, mysterious and two large secrets are revealed that add to the lush, eerie writing style. Each chapter brings you closer to understanding what happened between these two women and what happened to Alice’s husband, John.

The setting of Tangier is beautiful and breathtaking and adds to the suspense of the story. The heat and hustle and bustle of the city streets makes the tension between Alice and Lucy all the more sweltering. I loved the city and reading the descriptions of a place in the world that is far different from the one where I live.

“Tangier and Lucy were the same, I thought. Both unsolvable riddles that refused to leave me in peace. And I had tired of it - of the not knowing, of always feeling as though I were on the outside of things, just on the periphery.”

“I did not ask her where she had spent her day, or whom she had spent it with. I did not ask what she was doing in Tangier, why she was here, what she wanted - still too afraid of the answers I might receive.” 

“The feelings I had felt toward Lucy, I often thought, were something like this - something sharper than a normal friendship, something that I felt threatened to overwhelm and, quite possibly, destroy. There were moments when I had thought that I did not so much as want her, as I wanted to be her.” 

“She was put together nicely, with the intention of others not noticing. There was nothing about her that clamored for attention, nothing that demanded to be seen, and yet, everything was done exactly in anticipation of such notice.” 

I was pleasantly surprised and shocked to learn that this is a debut novel. Christine Mangan has a bright future ahead of her in her field as a writer. This story transported me to another world, gripped me from page one, and kept me guessing until the end. Both of the main characters were interesting to read about and the pacing was consistently fast all the way through. I will add Mangan to my auto-read author list.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Ecco in exchange for my honest review***


  1. I have the audiobook of Tangerine on my phone and I can't wait to get to it. Wonderful review!