Tangerine by Christine Mangan
eBook review copy; 320 pages
Tangerine by Christine Mangan is a recommended historical fiction suspense novel set in Tangier, Morocco, in 1956.
Alice Shipley has moved to Tangier with her new husband, John
McAllister, for his job. McAllister is an obnoxious, disagreeable man
who married Alice for her money. He loves Tangier and is always off
doing something in the city, while Alice finds the city terrible and
oppressive. She is not adjusting to life there at all. However, the last
person she expected to show up in Tangier for a visit was
Lucy Mason, whom she hasn't spoken to for over a year.
Alice and Lucy first met when they were freshman at Bennington in the
early 1950s. The roommates became inseparable and were the best of
friends - until an unnamed accident happened and the two did
not part on good terms. Now, Lucy has traveled to Tangier
specifically to see Alice. Alice is surprised to see her after whatever
mysterious incident happened between the two. What is clear is that Lucy
closely watches everything and always has, and that she is obsessed
with Alice. The setting adds to the oppressive feeling, as Alice
struggles with the heat and foreignness of Tangier.
The writing is wonderfully descriptive. The setting is meticulously
detailed, creating an atmospheric setting. The story develops in
that alternate between the the two women's point of view, and describe
events in the present and the past. It is the unnamed, mysterious
accident/incident that happened between the two while they were in
college, combined with Lucy's obsession with Alice that creates the
feeling of tension. There is an almost Hitchcockian aura surrounding
the plot and dialogue.
As I was reading Tangerine a feeling persisted that I had read
this novel before, or had seen this film before - only the
elusive-unnamed-original was better than this novel. The trouble is that
the tension and drama is based on the big secret, which is so slow to
be revealed that it actually offers no huge surprise. Astute readers
will likely have felt the same as I did from the beginning and have an
excellent idea where the plot is going long before it meanders that
direction. Additionally, even though the two women are described as
being very different, sometimes it is hard to tell whose voice you are
reading, which is disconcerting. What I do think is true is that this
book will make a good movie - which is probably why the film rights have
already been sold.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.