Thursday, February 28, 2019

Books: "Tangerine" by Christine Mangan

By Christine Mangan
Ecco; paperback; $16.99

This debut novel from Christine Mangan focuses on Alice Shipley, who has just arrived in Tangier with her new husband, John, but she runs into the last person she ever expected to run into there, Lucy Mason.

After the accident at Bennington College in Vermont, the two friends, who were once inseparable roommates, haven’t spoken in over a year, but Lucy was there and trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms.

Perhaps Alice should be happy Lucy is there. 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.

Mangan tells the story from both Alice and Lucy's voices, with them each getting alternating chapters. Here, Alice describes running into Lucy and their initial interactions, "I did not ask her where she had spent her day, or whom she had spent it with. I did not ask what she was doing in Tangier, why she was here, what she wanted - still too afraid of the answers I might receive. Instead, I smiled, the gesture feeling odd and forced, and told her to sit, told her I would make drinks again - the nights already beginning to take on the shape of those we had spent at Bennington.
"I wondered at the ease of it, of how quickly we had slipped back into our roles, how comfortable already it had begun to feel. And I resented it, the feeling that I had tried to clasp onto at the bar suddenly mine, strong and fierce, until I could think of nothing else but the way that she had so carefully reinserted herself back into my life without a mention of the past, of her part in what had unfolded between us, the tragedy that had ensconced us. I didn't know what I expected her to say, not exactly, but there was neither a word nor a glance, not anything at all that seemed to indicate she recalled those last few weeks we had spent together and the tension that had grown between us.
"I could feel my anger growing, and I forced myself to concentrate on the task at hand, peeling the zest from the lemon that I had bought at the market two weeks past, the skin of the fruit now dried, withered.
"I called from the kitchen: 'It's like this most nights, I'm afraid. John is always off to one dinner party or another.'
"'And what about you? Don't you ever go with him?' she called back.
"'No, not anymore.' I thought of the faces I had been introduced to those first few months - appraising and cold. 'I did at first, but well, it turned out they weren't for me. Tangier seems to attract a certain type, and I'm afraid that I don't generally fit the description.'
"I found her perched beside the window, gazing out. At my entrance she turned, frowning. 'Do you like it at all. Alice? Tangier, I mean?'
"My face burned a fiercer shade of red. 'Oh,I don't know. I suppose I haven't really given it a chance. Or at least, that's what John always says.'
"I did not add that I often doubted whether there was any truth in what John said, wondered instead whether the truth wasn't something much simpler" Tangier and I were not suited for one another, that we never would be, no matter how many chances I gave it. From the little I knew of it already, I had realized what a hard place it could be. It was not a place where one simply arrived and belonged - no, I imagined that it was a process, a trial, even an initiation of sorts, one that only the bravest survived. It was a place that inspired rebellion, a place that demanded it, of its people, its citizens. A place where everyone had ton constantly adapt, struggle, fight for what they wanted. I looked up at the woman in front of me. It was a place for someone like Lucy.
"'I made a friend today,' Lucy said, bringing me back to the present. 'A Moroccan man. Rather strange, I suppose, though he was quite kind. I was sitting outside of Cinema Rif. Do you know it?' When I nodded, she continued: 'I was having a tea and he happened to notice I was sitting there alone. He offered to show me around Tangier, in fact. He mentioned something about being an artist. A painter, I think.'
"I felt myself flush at her words, felt it spread throughout my body. My dress, despite the pink blush fabric, was severe and unyielding in the evening heat. There was something strangely unsettling about Lucy's piece of information, about the fact that she had already made an acquaintance, a friend, and suddenly I could feel it, a tinge of envy, of jealousy, growing hot in the pit of my stomach."

This was just the start of Alice being overtaken by a familiar feeling, as 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, so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, and so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, that it will leave you absolutely breathless.

Tangerine has been pptioned for film by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures, with Scarlett Johansson to star.

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