Tangerine by Christine Mangan

a bookclique pick by Lindsey Mead 

Christine Mangan’s first novel, Tangerine, is a mesmerizing, unput-down-able novel that feels like a cross between The Talented Mr Ripley and The Secret History.

The novel centers around two formerly estranged college friends reuniting in Morocco in the middle of the 20th century.  Mangan’s world is full of evocative detail, and she brings midcentury Morocco with its dusty streets, noisy nightclubs, and ice cubes rattling in cocktails vividly to life.  Flashbacks to their relationship at Bennington College in Vermont help illuminate the estrangement that preceded their reunion in Morocco, and slowly explain their clearly tangled, complicated relationship.  Mangan explores themes of identity and loyalty, of friendship and love, of trust and fear as she unwinds the irrevocable ways in which who we were haunt who we are.

The narrative unfolds at once at a breakneck pace and mesmerizingly slowly.  Lucy describes Morocco as languid, and the same word describes Tangerine.  The story is full of interesting characters – current and former boyfriends and husbands, friends, and family members – but everyone feels peripheral, shadowy, compared to the two central characters of Alice and Lucy.  With this pair of women, Mangan explores the dark and light sides of human nature, and the ways in which the friends we had when we were becoming who we are can be – for better or for worse – a part of us forever.  One of the women says of their friendship, “whatever symbiosis existed between us was real, tangible,” and it is the complicated interdependence of their union that beats through the book, as unseen and as essential as a heartbeat.

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