If you’re a fan of gothic horror, you will love this book. I’m not a huge fan of the gothic novel, although I did enjoy Rebecca and I like seeing how other authors take on this genre. I read it mainly because it’s by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who wrote the fantastic Gods of Jade and Shadow. I want to read everything she’s written.
Mexican Gothic is full of all the tropes of the gothic novel, — creaky mansion, forbidding housekeeper, wailing ghosts, even a decrepit old wedding gown. As you can surmise from the title and the gorgeous cover, what makes this book a bit different is that it’s set in Mexico, and incorporates issues of race, poverty, class, and colonialism.
It’s set in High Place, a creaky old mansion in the remote town of El Triunfo, an old British mining town. It’s the 1950s, though I’m not sure I found that particularly relevant, since the house is completely out of time – they even use gas lamps. Socialite and anthropology student Noemí has traveled from Mexico City to this remote house to check on her friend Catalina. Catalina married recently and sent Noemí’s father a most disturbing letter about hearing voices in the walls. Noemí finds her friend seriously ill in a house where the inhabitants couldn’t be creepier, and Noemí is treated more like a prisoner than a guest.
What makes this book stand out is Moreno-Garcia’s vivid, dreamlike writing. You really feel like you’re there – and you definitely don’t want to be.
Noemi heard a heart beating, as loud as a drum, calling for her. It woke her up. Carefully she ventured outside her room to find the place where it was hiding. She felt it beneath her palm, when she pressed her hand against the walls; felt the wallpaper grow slippery, like a strained muscle, and the floor beneath her was wet and soft.Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Horror fans will really appreciate the beauty of the writing and the disturbing nature of the story. It reminded me quite a bit of Slade House, in that the house is truly the main character in this story. And like Slade House, it takes creepiness to whole new levels. I’ll warn readers that there are some scenes that touch on rape that I found particularly disturbing. This book touched a few nerves for me — for me, the scariest kind of horror is where one character can be controlled by another.
This book is definitely frightening, but it’s not a heavy read, if you’re looking for something to take you away from the issues of the day. The characters and the issues are not particularly deep; this is an action-driven story that would be perfect as a film. I personally found Gods of Jade and Shadow much more enjoyable, but as I noted, gothic horror isn’t necessarily a genre I seek out.
Note: I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley and publisher Del Rey. The book publishes June 30, 2020.
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