North Africa books to read

BOOK REVIEW: TANGERINE & THE SHELTERING SKY

Mint iced tea, sand dunes, riding camels out in the hot Sahara Desert and spending the night in a berber tent while the sunsets on the never-ending horizon.  Shopping in the souks for colorful spices spilling out of baskets and leather moroccan poufs stacked tall and bright. Ahh, this is what I imagine Morocco to be. Like I always say, “if you can’t book a flight, at least you can read a book.” My wanderlust to travel to Morocco has peaked again since I stumbled upon the book Tangerine by Christine Morgan.

Set in the 1950s in Tangier where a recent married couple have moved from the East Coast. Tangerine revolves around the main character, Alice: a woman out of her element in a new country. However, as the story progresses you immediately sense that it is more than just experiencing a different country. Her fleeting paranoia and self isolation take hold until an old friend from college shows up unexpectedly. That is when the twists and turns really start happening. A bit of psychological thriller,I always love.

The book refers to another author, Paul Bowles who wrote The Sheltering Sky.  I was surprised by the narratives familiarity. Another young couple traveling to North Africa right after WWII. The woman Kat again seems to isolate in her room while the main character Port explores the small towns they travel too. I was not expecting the narrator to change from Port to Kat in the last half of the book or what she goes through. The Sheltering Sky is described as a classic work of psychological terror.

From The Sheltering Sky

“Another important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

From the Back Cover of Tangerine

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.

From the Back Cover of The Sheltering Sky

In this classic work of psychological terror, Paul Bowles examines the ways in which Americans apprehend an alien culture—and the ways in which their incomprehension destroys them. The story of three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky is at once merciless and heartbreaking in its compassion. It etches the limits of human reason and intelligence—perhaps even the limits of human life—when they touch the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert.

Morocco travel inspiration

Camel in desert

Morocco inspiration

What are your favorite books set in North Africa or Morocco? Would love to hear, leave a comment!

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