Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 301
Publication Date: 2020
Category/Genre: Fiction, Adult Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery, Historical, Cultural, Gothic
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.69)
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.0)
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 Noemí’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.
I originally thought that I was picking up a traditional haunted house story, but everything shifted completely and I was taken for more of a wild ride than I anticipated. It was quite an unsettling novel but the more I read, the more I needed to read and I was compelled forward despite the looming dread and that I was breaking into cold sweats.
“Noemí, just because there are no ghosts it doesn’t mean you can’t be haunted. Nor that you shouldn’t fear the haunting.”
I was absolutely absorbed in the narrative and the eerie haunting atmosphere that Moreno-Garcia created so vividly. The aesthetic of rotting decadence was sublime and couldn’t have been more perfectly crafted and fitting.
“She was the snake biting its tail. She was a dreamer, eternally bound to a nightmare, eyes closed even when her eyes had turned to dust.”
The protagonist of the novel is Noemí Taboada, a woman of color who is bold and capable, and very headstrong. But the gaslighting and the tender manipulation threaded through started to wear on her sanity and even had me questioning myself. Noemí fights hard to prevent herself from unraveling to remain in control and I was rooting for her to keep even my own emotions intact.
While everything in this Gothic Enchantment was shrouded in mystery and eventual horrors it was the other layer of wicked and cruel horrors such as race, colonialism, and eugenics lurking deep inside this story that I found so gripping.
Class disparity and abuse — an endless unbroken history of Hispanic dreams wrecked and devoured, their bodies poked and prodded and their dignity shattered all for white supremacy was a major theme of this book that I had not anticipated and was expertly woven into the fabric of the horrors of the house.
If you are a fan of all things to go bump in the night, gorgeous prose, though-provoking stories about racism, class and privilege then this engrossing gothic novel is a must-read.
TWs: racism, incest, cannibalism, attempted rape, child death, descriptions of gore, and body horror.