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"So it goes."

Ella Mc's book blog. Brand new 2018 - Only books read after 1st January 2018

Currently reading

The Witches of Eastwick
John Updike
Progress: 100/307 pages

Tangerine by Christine Mangan - shades of so many great movies

Tangerine - Christine Mangan



3 heaping tablespoons of Gaslight (1944)

1 healthy teaspoon of Stolen Identity (1953)

dash of Single White Female (1992)

sprinkle liberally with Casablanca (1942)


Mix well and you get Tangerine.


Seriously, I couldn't get Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall out of my head while reading this brand new novel. This was interesting given I've recently been rereading Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels (with plans to read the ones I missed earlier) and I was quickly able to rid my head of Humphrey Bogart even though I've seen those films many times. Why, then, does a book that hasn't been made into a movie force me to imagine films that are supposedly unrelated? I'm going to try to figure that out:


Set in 1956 Tangier, on the precipice of freedom and reunification with the rest of the country, we meet two young women who were fast friends in college a year before. They've not seen each other since a mysterious unexplained incident at Bennington college that both hint at, but neither discusses with readers or each other. Now the American, Lucy, has decided to remedy that by surprising her friend Alice - a newlywed Brit - showing up completely unannounced and unexpectedly on her doorstep in Tangier! 


We only know that Alice and her husband are experiencing some marital tension. She's afraid to leave the house, and to be honest, Alice doesn't seem like the most reliable narrator. The chapters skip between the two women, and Lucy seems much more "normal" though she does seem completely oblivious to the most basic of manners.


Lucy doesn't trust Alice's new husband. Alice herself admits to us that her husband is spending her trust fund, though she doesn't really care. She bucks up and plays hostess when Lucy appears. Alice seems hesitant with Lucy, but that may simply be her discomfort with displaying her marital discomfort and her own distress. Alice may be mentally ill, I thought.


Lucy is a modern woman for 1956, even wearing capris in public. They smoke, drink and Alice gets herself together enough to leave the apartment. Maybe Lucy is all Alice needed, despite her despicable manners?


And so it goes. The two women tell us the story of Lucy's visit in Tangier. But things get twisted. Lucy meets a man but is terrifically jealous of Alice's husband. We learn through flashbacks of Lucy stealing Alice's clothes and jewelry in college. We slowly learn that Alice doesn't trust Lucy, she feels unmoored when Alice is around. She's not sure what is real and what isn't, and I had no idea, until suddenly the proverbial sh*t hit the fan.


Alice's husband goes missing right after Alice demands Lucy leave her home. When Alice wakes up after a troubling night of worrying about her husband, there's Lucy -- still there! Alice is terrified, rightfully so!


We know what happened. We slowly realize that perhaps our narrators are each unreliable in her own way, but poor Alice is not as mixed up as she first seemed. Sadly, our reading of Alice's fragility, lack of confidence and possible mental stability are shared by all the other characters too.


Tangerine is based on some excellent, if overused, psychological tactics and themes. We've read them and they've been portrayed in timeless classics. Mangan sets herself up to be compared to these classics, though, and her book falls short.


Once the action starts moving, there are things that simply don't fit. I was willing to believe that Lucy had duped me, but each piece of action added up to more unrealistic plot I needed to swallow. Once I'd caught up on Lucy's shenanigans, I still couldn't find a way for all of these brilliant plot twists to have actually occurred. When I finished it, I was frustrated for poor Alice, but in the days since, I've been more frustrated by my own experience. In order for it all to happen, I somehow have to believe that Lucy is the most amazing criminal mind ever, as well as a mind-reader and bender of time.


Um, I don't.


So while it's a fun read and a great example of building psychological suspense, it doesn't really hang together once the whole picture is painted.


Though the cover is great.