- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Ecco; 1st Edition edition (March 27, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062686666
- ISBN-13: 978-0062686664
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 236 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Tangerine: A Novel Hardcover – March 27, 2018
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“A juicy melodrama cast against the sultry, stylish imagery of North Africa in the fifties. . . . [Tangerine is] endearing and even impressive in the force of its determination to conjure a life more exciting than most. . . . Just the ticket.” (New Yorker)
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From the Back Cover
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 more than a year. But here was Lucy, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be glad for a friendly face. 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 to 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.
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Worse, the author breaks one of the cardinal rules of good writing - show, don’t tell ("show, don't tell is a technique used to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author's exposition, summarization, and description.”).
The writing also felt too ‘first draft-y’, as if someone hadn’t taken the time to edit the manuscript: repeated words (why do the characters frown so much? there is a frown on every page, sometimes multiple times), mistakes in grammar, and rambling, superfluous phrases abounded. Take a look at these:
'Before I could think better of it, before I could stop myself…’
‘...that something had changed, that something had shifted...’
‘...that defied explanation, that defied normalcy.’
‘..but then it was gone, vanished…’
‘My eyes moved between the two of them, the pair of them…’
I mean, really?
In the end, I took a pen and started marking up the writing - something the author, or at least her editor, should have done.
PS: Despite the fact that the two female leads used each other’s names incessantly (‘How are you, Alice?’ ‘Good, and you Lucy?’ ‘Fine, Alice’), I still couldn’t tell them apart. This is because the two characters had exactly the same voice. When writing from multiple points of view, the good authors are able to change and adjust the style and tone of the narrators. Not this author.)
Lucy and Alice narrate alternating chapters. Sometimes, Alice will give her view of something Lucy has described in the preceding chapter; other times the story will just move on. Always in the background is Tangier or Tangiers or the other 4 or 5 names history has used for this amazing city with narrow passages through the Casbah, broiling sun, hot mint tea – and the occasional tangerine. So, what’s a tangerine? Someone whose home is Tangiers, a woman, not Moroccan, a user of people – it is not complimentary.
There are flashbacks to Bennington days, a hint of past trouble, the incident. A growing relationship between the two woman, despite two polar opposites in background, in personalities, in almost everything. Jump back to Tangier and we begin to meet some locals. Lucy is advised to stay away from Youssef, a warning akin to telling a teenager to drive at the speed limit and never experiment with drugs. The tension continues to mount. We learn what it was that happened that night at Bennington and why one of the young women ran away. Identities become blurred. And then there is a murder.
Why 1956? The story wouldn’t quite work at much later dates. Shortly after, Morocco becomes independent, crime solving becomes more sophisticated, travel advances shrink the globe. And what about that blurb on the cover suggesting what a great Hitchcock movie this would have made? I don’t agree. I loved Hitchcock. But Hitchcock used female roles as window dressing; his films were always about the hero guy. Hitchcock did not make movies about women. There is no hero guy in “Tangerine”; actually there is no heroine either.
And that is why I think there is such a disparity between most reader reviews and critic reviews. After reading critics’ reviews, one might expect 5 stars from readers. But most readers, including myself, want a hero, someone they like, someone to pull for, someone to save the day or just survive. This is not that book. Nevertheless “Tangerine” is excellent – for its great story telling, for transporting the reader to an engrossing time and place, for creating two excellent characters, for great tension and plot. So I highly recommend this book though I realize it is not for all tastes.
As for the characters and other substance of the novel, there's not much there there. The three or four main characters are thoroughly unpleasant, neurotic and sometimes downright amoral beings whose presence in Tangier (save for one) is never really explained. The plot is transparently a sharp lean toward Patricia Highsmith with none of the built-in tautness and psychological shading. The author focuses on threat and menace and sacrifices depth, in my opinion. And back to my first disappointment with the locale--I got the impression that she has never set foot in Tangier.
The ideas aren’t new, the twists not surprising, but the book still manages to tell an entertaining little story.