30 June 2020

ARC Review // Mexican Gothic

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Published: 30th June 2020
Pages: 352 [eBook]

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico—“fans of classic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca are in for a suspenseful treat” (PopSugar).
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed 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.

Before anything else, Happy Release Day to Mexican Gothic!!!! 🥳

Set in 1950s Mexico City, Mexican Gothic follows Noemí Taborda, a charming socialite that is more than meets the eye. After receiving a strange letter about ghosts and strange happenings from her beloved cousin Catalina, Noemí travels to the mysterious High Place, a decaying house inhabited by the mysterious and once-powerful Doyles. Needless to say, Mexican Gothic is all I could ever want in a Gothic tale written in the twenty-first century.

Storytelling: As a Gothic PhD candidate, I loved how so many Gothic tropes, intertwined with Mexican folk and history (the historical context of the 1920s plays a huge part in the narrative's background), were part of Mexican Gothic: an isolated mansion in ruins, a decaying English family, ghosts and nightmarish visions, violence, grotesque bodies, madness, lust, and family secrets. Like many other narratives which are part of the Gothic literary tradition, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker, Mexican Gothic brings forth questions that haunt today's society, such as racism. The story also dwells on questions regarding colonialism and imperialism.

There is something sublime and eerie about Moreno-Garcia's writing style that adds the chilling-creepiness of this unique narrative. Of course, there were some uncomfortable scenes throughout Mexican Gothic (please, take a look at the trigger warning section below before deciding if this book is for you) that will probably haunt me forever.

"A great sore she walked upon, and the walls were sores too. The wallpaper was peeling, revealing underneath sickly organs instead of brick or wooden boards. Veins and arteries clogged with secret excess."

I must confess that it is really difficult to talk about the story of Mexican Gothic without revealing some vital detail of the plot. It is an enticing narrative in which every chapter gives Noemí - and the reader - a clue to decipher what is behind the strange events happening in High Place.

Characters: What is there not to love about Noemí Taborda? Yes, she came across as a spoiled debutante a few times, but I will forever and always stan a girl that rebels against the patriarchal society, breaking the rules that are forced upon women, and wishes to do a master's degree in anthropology instead of marrying whoever her father wishes her to.

Moreover, no matter how dark or dangerous her stay in High Place became, Noemí did not give up her pursuit for the truth or walked away from Catalina, whose emotional state was declining every passing day. She faced Catalina's vicious husband and his intrusive family to protect her cousin, even after being constantly threatened by them. I adored her bravery and how her will could not be bent.

The Doyle family, well, they were a despicable bunch, to say the least. Having lost all of their fortunes, this English family inhabited a moldy mansion, surrounded by an imperialist past. Francis is the only family member that revealed any human emotion. Growing up in such a vicious family must have been hard for someone with such a big heart as him. The family member I hated the most was, without a doubt, Howard, the patriarch of this uncanny household. His observations throughout the story angered me -- I don't know how Noemí was able to restrain herself from slapping him. His bigotry and his defence of eugenics were just appalling. The worse is that this same despicable discourse prevails in today's society. Government leaders use this same discourse!

Atmosphere: Yes, I'm switching "world-building" for "atmosphere" because I believe there is nothing more important in a Gothic tale than the atmosphere. High Place was surrounded by a sinister aura and has the ability to provoke feelings of uneasiness. The landscape always hidden by fog hid the Doyles' family secrets -- secrets that once you learn them, you cannot help but crawl under the bed covers and hug a teddy bear. Or stopping eating mushrooms. I don't think I will ever be able to look at them without thinking of Noemí or High Place and its twisted past.

Trigger Warning! Violence, bigotry, racism, attempted rape, sexual assault & cannabilism.

Note: This is not a young adult novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher/author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Do you enjoy creepy stories? Do you love Gothic as much as I do? What is your favourite Gothic book?

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  1. I love creepy stories! And I love historical fiction, so this seems like a perfect book for me. It’s on my TBR list. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Your review is so well-written and thought out, and it perfectly encapsulates Mexican Gothic. Mexican Gothic is so good and so creepy, I loved it. And I'm not usually a historical fiction or horror fan, but Silvia is such a phenomenal writer and storyteller that I'll read anything she writes. Also, the trigger warnings you provided are much appreciated.

  3. Great review! I loved this book too, especially the overall creepy vibe surrounding High Place. It's one I don't think I'm going to forget about anytime soon.