If Christine Mangan’s debut novel Tangerine was not on your radar when it released a year ago, you may want to check it out now. Mangan draws on her rich memories of Tangier with a seductive style and a mystery that cannot be ignored.
Starting with the prologue, hints of madness give the reader a subtle sliver of what lies ahead. The narrative alternates between Alice, a young woman living on a monthly allowance from a trust, and Lucy who grew up living in an apartment over the garage where her father worked.
Lucy’s scholarship affords her an opportunity to attend Bennington Women’s College, only a few miles from the small town in Vermont where she grew up. Such a fate grants her access to a life she’s only heard of. Is it by chance or is it random that Lucy and Alice become roommates?
Alice is in the charge of her doting aunt who’s become like a parent after the death of Alice’s own parents. Their deaths were an accident for which Alice believes herself to be at fault. This fact has left her withdrawn and bereft.
They say opposites attract: Alice is shy and quiet, Lucy confident and bold. The two form a friendship that grows over the course of time. They make plans to travel after graduation, with Alice generously offering to pay Lucy’s way to Paris.
Lucy draws Alice out of her grieving and Alice is delighted to have a friend and confident in Lucy. She shares her deepest secret about the tragic loss of her parents. Lucy lets out bits and pieces of her past keeping elements of her life secret, but she revels in the closeness and camaraderie she shares with Alice.
A well-developed plot unravels beginning in Tangier, 1956. Alice is living in a small sultry apartment married for convenience to John, who unlike Alice is swept up in the exotic allure of the place and its people. Alice is stuck: gone is the light-hearted care free young college woman who’d blossomed in the years spent with Lucy.
And then one day out of the blue Lucy shows up in Tangier at Alice’s door— unexpected and uninvited.
This is where the mystery and intrigue begins. Who is telling the truth? Why is Alice not excited to see her old college roommate? How did Lucy discover where Alice is living?
Mangan masterfully gives shape and presence to her characters while skillfully building the readers understanding through the fluctuation of narration. As revelations grow, so to does the suspense. We learn the shocking reason why Alice did not stay in contact with Lucy. And we find that Lucy is cunning and clever and much, much more.
Though I’m bursting to say more I dare not!