Book Review: Tangerine by Christine Mangan

TangerineCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Historical Fiction, Suspense
Setting: 1956 Tangier, with flashbacks to Bennington College in Vermont
My Copy Came From: I purchased a used paperback from my local used paperback bookstore, Paperbacks Unlimited.

 *** this post contains affiliate links ***

 Review: Unsatisfyingly frustrating. While I really enjoyed most of the book, the ending just completely destroyed it for me. Tangerine by Christine Mangan is a slinky, sultry read that draws the reader in. I was hooked from the beginning, as we have a mysterious prologue with an unnamed narrator, and from then on we get point of view (POV) chapters from our two leads, Alice and Lucy.

Leave it in the past, she had urged, as if my memories were objects that could be packed away in boxes secure enough to ensure they would never let loose the secrets held within.

Alice and Lucy met at Bennington College in Vermont; they were roommates. Something happened in Vermont that sends Alice running, and Alice ends up in Tangier and married to a man named John. One day Lucy knocks on the door and that sets up the cat-and-mouse game that Lucy and Alice play. But who’s hunting whom, and why, and how do we as a reader want it resolved? That’s the big question of the book, and depending on how you answer those questions will depend on how much you like Tangerine.

Everything changes, sooner or later. Time moves along, without constraints—no matter how hard one may attempt to pause, to alter, to rewrite it.

Quite simply, there is nothing to stop it, nothing at all.

For me, without giving away too much, it did not end in a satisfactory way, and that truly ruined the book for me. It’s rare for an ending to make me so angry, and for it to completely color the entire read. Now, I’ve certainly had the opposite effect, where a so-so book can have a spectacular ending that saves it for me. Not so here! I was so frustrated with this ending!

But lets move past the bad and on to what was good about Tangerine.

The setting of 1956 Tangier was electric. I could feel the heat, and smell the city smells, and I was right there with the characters as they wandered the streets.

“Morocco is your home.” He said the words slowly, watching my face closely as he spoke. “Yes, it is yours. You are a Tangerine now.”

He pronounced it tangerine, like the fruit. I smiled, letting the thought settle. Morocco was mine. And it could be, I reasoned. After all, what did I have to return to? A damp, shared room on the wrong side of New York. Endless days spent typing up other writers’ manuscripts. Here I could finally write something of my own, put pen to paper as I had always dreamed of during college—as Alice and I had dreamed, together. And if that meant making Morocco my own, I was prepared to do just that.

I was a Tangerine now, after all.

The characters were interesting. I don’t want to say too much about who I liked and who I didn’t like, as a discerning reader may then be able to figure out why I hated the ending so much. But, I will say that both of the narrators (Alice and Lucy) were equally fascinating to read about. Is their relationship platonic? Or romantic? Are they both entirely sane? Are they murderers? The mystery of what happened in Vermont, and what will happen in Tangier, and who the mystery woman at the beginning of the book was was enough to keep me reading along.

The official synopsis listed above I think gives away too much of the plot. For example, the fact that Alice’s husband, John, goes missing is mentioned above, and that doesn’t happen in the novel until about page 200. My copy was only 308 pages long, so I don’t think this fact should’ve been mentioned. Not that it necessarily spoiled anything, but it just was something that could’ve been left out of the synopsis.

So all in all, I’d call this read part Gaslight, part Gone Girl, part gothic literature set in a sticky, hot, sultry setting. I did enjoy most of the book, until I got to that awful ending, which absolutely ruined the rest of the book for me.

Bottom Line: Unsatisfying and frustrating.

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Amazon (Affiliate Link!)


Have you read Tangerine? What did you think of that ending?



5 thoughts on “Book Review: Tangerine by Christine Mangan

  1. I never knew why this book was called Tangerine. I guess I didn’t fully “get it” until I read your review. Then again, I’m not 100% I get the plot. How does she end up in Tangier? Where does she meet John? Why is there a murder mixed in with what sounds like a romance? And is there a bit of Patricia Highsmith’s Salt going on? It sounds like a busy book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also did not know why it was called Tangerine until I read the book! I was drawn to this book by the title (what did it mean??) and the striking photograph on the cover (what is she looking for??). I’d categorize this one as a psychological thriller & suspense novel over a romance.
      I haven’t read that book or seen the movie (it’s Carol, right?). Is that one suspenseful or is it more of a romance?


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