Review: ‘Tangerine’ by Christine Mangan – Stalking in the Souks

When should you read this book? On holiday in Morocco, having first found a particularly busy souk in which to abandon any female friends who accompanied you there.

Is it me or is eeeeerybody reading Tangerine?

It seems like any book blog I visit it’s there, up in the ‘currently reading’ sidebar with that gorgeous cover of a 1050s belle shielding her eyes and looking out over a black and white landscape. I could hardly resist.

What’s it about?

Tangerine is the story of Alice and Lucy, old college roommates. Alice is an orphan and Lucy is an outcast, but after being thrown together by chance they become best friends.

Possibly, better friends than is good for them.

A dreadful accident occurs which wrenches them apart, and they go their separate ways; Lucy to New York and Alice with her new husband to Tangier.

But a year later, Lucy turns up uninvited on Alice’s doorstep, convinced there is unfinished business between them.

The Talented Miss Ripley?

Impossible not to compare this book, as many others have, to Patricia Highsmith’s famous novel. Having only seen the Matt Damon film (which I hear was a poor reflection of the book) I can’t really comment beyond the fact that the stories are similar and Lucy certainly bears a strong resemblance to The Talented Mr Damon.

What I can say is that out of the two books about obsessive love and stalkers that I happen to have read recently (ignoring the alarming trend that suggests about me), Enduring Love is absolutely the better book.

Not only is McEwan’s writing style far more accomplished, the plotline is far more finessed and seems to run its course much more naturally. While the central characters of Mangan’s novel are well-rounded, McEwan’s seemed more believable.

The chapters of Tangerine are narrated alternately by Lucy and Alice. I think this was a bit of a mistake. As they are both narrated in the first person, it’s difficult to differentiate between them and I sometimes had to check which chapter I was in.

You can argue that’s deliberate and designed to muddle the reader between the two identities, as there are times in the story when Lucy pretends to be Alice for her own nefarious purposes.

But if that were the case it would have been more effective to have them start in their own individual voices and then mutate towards each other as the story progresses, surely?

There are also a number of points in Tangerine – particularly one exchange towards the end between poor beleaguered Alice and an acquaintance from Tangier, Youssef – where I found the characters hard to believe. They make choices that even I find questionable.

At this point, my suspended disbelief tends to descend into non-belief.

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Yellow and orange

Christine Mangan is great at creating an atmosphere – that much is for sure. Her representation of 1950s Tangier is very effective (although not as effective as Jane Harper’s flawless depiction of Australia in The Dry).

There’s many a bustling souk, many a labyrinthine medina alleyway, many a tall mound of colourful spices. Heat, colour and light seep out of these pages.

Mangan is also very good at establishing the ‘otherness’ that Alice experiences in this foreign environment.

She, a pale English rose, can’t understand why boiling Moroccan mint tea should be drunk out of a thin glass cup with no handles. ‘I would quite literally murder someone for a cup of builder’s tea at this point,’ she wails.

Is there any more quintessentially British observation than one that slags off another country’s version of tea?

There’s also a nod to Morocco’s history, as the novel is set during the period of its transition to independence. Not that you’d particularly know it – it’s referenced only in tangential comments and not dwelt upon at all. Doesn’t this seem like another missed opportunity?

Overall Tangerine is a quick read and I enjoyed it, but at times the plot seemed to stumble and that prevented me from really being sucked in. It would make a fantastic easy read, though, if you’re looking for a bit of escapism with something that isn’t too heavy.

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Have you read Tangerine? What did you think?

Next up, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi!

One thought on “Review: ‘Tangerine’ by Christine Mangan – Stalking in the Souks

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