Thursday, March 21, 2019

Fiction Review: Tangerine

Since its release last year, I kept hearing rave reviews of Tangerine, a novel by Christine Mangan, one of those books that it seemed like everyone was reading. When I saw that my local bookstore was discussing the book this month, I had the extra motivation I needed to finally listen to the audiobook. Though I ended up missing the book discussion, I enjoyed listening to this unique, captivating story set in Morocco in the 1950's.

Alice Shipley, a young woman in her 20's, is surprised one morning at her apartment in Tangier by a surprise visitor: her college roommate, Lucy Mason. Alice is surprised because after four years of living together at Bennington College in Vermont, something bad happened between the roommates - something that the reader is not yet privy to. Alice has not been happy in Morocco with her new husband, though the reader doesn't quite know why, either. But Lucy seems eager to make things right with her old friend and to make the best of her time in Morocco. Often anxious and afraid to leave her flat, Alice finally ventures out into the Moroccan heat, the crowded markets, and the outlying towns with Lucy at her side. All along, though, something feels off. Lucy doesn't get along well with Alice's husband, John, and she confirms a suspicion Alice had. Finally, when John goes missing, Alice isn't sure what to believe - about her husband or her one-time best friend.

The reader (or listener) can feel the tension in this story right from the start. Clearly, something horrible happened at the end of the women's time in college together. Chapters alternate between Lucy and Alice, and it soon becomes clear that both women may be unreliable narrators. Is Lucy something of a stalker or a threat? Is Alice mentally ill and paranoid? It's hard to know what to believe, as the details of their past slowly come to light, amidst their ongoing story in present-day Morocco. Tangerine was very well-done on audio, with two different narrators voicing British Alice and American Lucy, so it was easy to keep track of who was narrating and to feel like the women themselves were telling their stories. I saw reviews comparing Christine Mangan to Donna Tartt (high praise for a debut author), and I definitely saw parallels between this novel and Tartt's The Secret History - both set partly on college campuses, both a bit too dark for me, with characters I couldn't quite relate to, and endings I wasn't thrilled with. That said, Tangerine was skillfully written and performed and certainly kept my attention, with plenty of suspense. It also uses its Moroccan backdrop to its full potential, painting a vivid picture of the exotic locale with its heat, bright colors, and dangerous political environment, on the brink of revolution. It was an engaging and gripping story. And word is that it's been optioned for film by George Clooney's production company, with Scarlett Johansson to star - should be a good one!

336 pages, Ecco

Listen to a sample of the audio book:

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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Download the audio from Audible.

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Or you can order Tangerine from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Not sure this one is for me, but it does add some good countries to your Literary Escapes challenge!

    1. ha ha - true! I tried to be specific because I also didn't love The Secret History (like this one - liked it OK), but so many people say it's one of their favorite books! Different strokes...