Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Genre: Gothic, Horror, Historical Fiction
Rating: ☕☕☕☕☕ (5/5)
Content Warning: (spoilers!) *highlight to view* {Body horror, incest, rape, violence, sexual assault, casual cannibalism, murder, miscarriage, eugenics}

Mexican Gothic was a book that I was really terrified to dip my toes into. With a cover like that, who wouldn’t be intrigued? With the opinions that were going on around Book Twitter, though, I was initially convinced to steer clear of this book mainly because: 1) I don’t read horror and 2) I don’t particularly like to actively spook myself (I’m a wuss, I know). But one almost universal thing is clear: It is such a good book. I was debating with myself for weeks whether to get it or not but my curiosity won. I’ve forgone my initial inhibitions and decided to give it a try. And you know what? It was worth it. I was treated to psychedelic madness that almost made me forget how I hated consuming horror media.

BLURB

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
(via Goodreads)

THOUGHTS

You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me. I cannot save myself as much as I wish to, I am bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin and it’s there. In the walls.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic started in Noemí Taboada, a twenty-something socialite from Mexico City, receiving a strange letter from her newly-wed cousin imploring her to “save her”. Her father, afraid of any scandal a potential divorce might cause and the disturbing nature of the letter, requested Noemí to assess the situation and find out what is truly happening in exchange for her getting the permission to enroll in the National University to pursue a master’s degree in anthropology. She agreed and found herself in the first train to El Triunfo – and off to High Place, a mysterious and remote countryside mansion where she will unearth an old, dark secret that would stretch the fabric of her reality and will put her chances of leaving the place in danger.

This book started rather slow, mostly adding to the somber mood and mystery that was established early on. There is an atmospheric quality to this book that enforced the constant sense of foreboding that Silvia Moreno-Garcia injected throughout its narrative. The place where the story was set, High Place, definitely added to it – the fog, the shadows, the antique quality to it. There is also the English cemetery, with its statues and unmarked plots. As well as the characters: there is mystery and this constant creep of something distinctly strange in the Doyle Family that gave way to an unsettling vibe every time they are on a scene that is hard to put off. I love slow, atmospheric book so this is definitely a plus to me. The pacing was gradual, yes, but it blew my mind page by page by the time it picked up – and it never stopped. I was left guessing even at less than 10% from the end of this book.

One thing that surprised me is how I enjoyed reading everything in Noemi’s perspective. She is vain and spoiled, that much is true. But I like the fact the Noemi knows she is attractive and she owns it. She is liberated and clever – hard-headed, even to a fault – that made her an interesting character to assume the sleuthing role in this story. Add to that Noemi’s distinct fashion sense – which sucked me in this gorgeous 50’s fashion rabbit hole. I really enjoyed googling them.

“Noemí, just because there are no ghosts it doesn’t mean you can’t be haunted. Nor that you shouldn’t fear the haunting.

This is labeled as Gothic Horror. And while I didn’t really have a concrete reference to Gothic stories, except maybe Wuthering Heights (which I barely got through) and Crimson Peak (which my brain weirdly always brings up whenever I am reading this book) – the experience was so trippy, I loved it. It is like a fever dream, this book – especially in the latter parts where dreams and reality overlap. It was so vivid that reading about it feels like projecting some sort of “skip” in bits and pieces of unsettling scenes, collected and pieced together, into my brain. The constant sense of foreboding kept me on my toes. The chase by the very end was an anxiety bomb for me, to be honest. I’m more spooked by psychological dread than monstrous horrors so this book really drove it home. I don’t really recommend reading this in the wee hours of the night as some of the gruesome AND unsettling scenes in this book bled to my dreams and it was not a pleasant experience. If you are the type of reader that is sensitive to the kind of things I listed in the content warnings above, I suggest to think twice before delving to this – because it did go THERE and then some.

She must practice, she thought. It was all practice. She’d learn to live without worry, without fears, without any darkness chasing after her.

I gotta say: ending the book in such an open-ended way is a *choice* – but a brilliant choice on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s part, personally. While I liked books that are “respectful” to the reader, in a way that the author ties all ends giving the reader the closure they want – I also have always loved books that make artistic choices like this that definitely add up to it, rather than subtract. Without revealing so much, that ending definitely is one of the most chilling things in this book for me. Imagine that constant sense sense of what-if and dread haunting you all your life.

The truth was she was afraid of going to bed, of what nightmares might uncoil in the dark. What did people do after witnessing the horrors they had seen? Was it possible to slip back into normality, to play pretend and go on?

I find it also interesting how this book indirectly brings up the idea of “after”. What do you do once you survive such horrors? Can you go on living as if nothing happened? Can you move on? Or are you forever changed? Such a chilling thing to imagine. And yet genius in it’s own way, as I think not much books carry that sense of reality that there is a life after the events that happened. It would also make for an interesting sequel.

IN CONCLUSION

This is just stunning and a masterclass in writing – I enjoyed every minute of it (though I am spooked for most of it). And if this is any testament to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s works, I think it’s safe to say that I will definitely watch out for more of her books and add them in my TBR. If you are a fan of Gothic stories and decadent horror, this is definitely for you. If you are down for a slow, morbid journey filled with intrigue and dark secrets, you will definitely relish reading this. I am not a fan of either (for personal reasons listed above) but I unexpectedly enjoyed this immensely – and I think that speaks a lot. This book is definitely one of the most interesting and unique things I’ve read this year. Recommended!

And, oh, the bit about mushroom? That if you like mushrooms you may need to think twice about reading this book? Yep, they are true.

RATING

QUOTABLE QUOTES

A woman who is not liked is a bitch, and a bitch can hardly do anything: all avenues are closed to her.

“I thought we had a truce,” she told him. “That would imply we’ve been at war. Would you say that?” “No.” “Then everything is fine,” he concluded and walked out of the greenhouse.

Books, moonlight, melodrama.

“It wasn’t made for love, the house.” “Any place is made for love,” she protested. “Not this place and not us. You look back two, three generations, as far as you can. You won’t find love. We are incapable of such a thing.”

Golden-haired Persephone, the book informed her, had been dragged down into the Underworld by Hades. There she ate a few seeds of pomegranate, which chained her to his shadow world.

I LOVED HOW THIS PORTION SOMEHOW ALLUDED TO THE SECRETS THAT WERE REVEALED IN THIS BOOK. SUCH A SUBTLE THING TO DO BUT IS BRILLIANT WHEN I TRIED REREADING AND LOOKING BACK.

The shifting mold was mesmerizing. It rearranged itself into wildly eclectic patterns that reminded her of a kaleidoscope, shifting, changing. Instead of bits of glass reflected by mirrors it was an organic madness that propelled the mold into its dizzy twists and turns, creating swirls and garlands, dissolving, then remerging.

PUTTING THIS HERE BECAUSE THIS DESCRIPTION IS REALLY VIVID AND IS SOMEHOW TATOOED IN MY BRAIN LONG AFTER I READ IT. IT’S AS IF I AM seeing it with my own two eyes.

“Sleepwalker,” she whispered. “Time to open your eyes.”

tHIS SCENE, OKAY.

The future, she thought, could not be predicted, and the shape of things could not be divined. To think otherwise was absurd. But they were young that morning, and they could cling to hope.

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

10 thoughts on “Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    1. It was worth getting spooked, this book – because it was so good! Let me know if you ever decide to give it a try. Thanks for commenting, Marie!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Not yet! But I added it in my TBR the moment I finished Mexican Gothic. You should really consider giving this a try. This book is really unique. Let me know if you ever read it. 🙂

      Like

    1. It is! I was also really drawn to that gorgeous cover but the story really makes up for it as well. Hope you read this book and enjoy it, too! Thanks for commenting, Cora. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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