True to its name, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia at its heart is a gothic story.
Like most gothic stories, it centers on an old house and a family with secrets in all its dark, secret passage. The story starts when the protagonist, Noemi Taboada, gets a letter from her cousin Catalina who recently married into the Doyle family and moved to their residence in The High Place. But something is wrong and Noemi goes there in an attempt to figure out what it is—a perfect gothic set up filled with mysterious potential.
I’m not sure what I expected when stepping into the book. I boarded the hype train with this one and thought I would settle into an unsettling tale in an unfamiliar setting. I also grew up on Gothic novels so I had some trope expectations that I was ready to check off. Beyond that, I had no clear expectations.
What I noticed first about the story was the dreamy way it was written. Noemi has a strong voice in the narrative, but the prose lingers on its descriptions. It starts a bit slow as it establishes the setting, making High Place as much a character in the book as the people who occupy it. It also loves the big words that litter the narrative that the reader can trip over if they’re not used to it. (My favorite is “mandibular prognathism.)
As the story picks up, I became entranced. Its dreaminess is what I ends up hooking me into the story. This book has some excellent horror writing in its dream sequences. They’re filled with flesh like walls and other sorts of grotesque imagery that I won’t spoil here. Most of its horror of this grotesque nature. When night falls in High Place, the house seems to breathe and twist with the monsters that lie beneath.
And the monsters all around. I won’t say much on this point other than the characters in this book are really well written. Even as you detest them and they transform in every which way, I appreciated how they added to the horror. There is some commentary on sexism, racism, and colonialism woven into this book’s themes. There’s discussions of control especially as it relates to the story’s female characters. This story does take place in 1950s Mexico. I’ll let that speak for itself.
If you like gothic or horror, I really think you should give this book a read. It’s admittingly slow for the first 30-50 pages, but if you’re patient you’ll be treated to something really special. This is one of my favorite books from last year and upon reflecting on the story and it’s themes, I feel that way more and more.