Book Review: Mexican Gothic
For a refreshing twist on your standard fantasy/horror fare, you should absolutely pick up a copy of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia like, yesterday. While it is a bit slow to start, the last third of the book covers so much ground I feel like I should have been taking notes. I could easily see myself re-reading this as part of a new Halloween tradition. Throw in a dash of romance and some interesting historical detail for even more spice, and you have the perfect literary cocktail to celebrate both Halloween and Hispanic Heritage Month.
It is so deliciously, delightfully WEIRD. And I loved it.
When I initially picked this up, I was expecting something akin to Rebecca- but Mexican Gothic resembles the works of H.P. Lovecraft more closely than anything by Daphne du Maurier. Beautiful imagery abounds, and Moreno-Garcia does an excellent job of establishing a deeply unsettling atmosphere without giving away too much of the plot immediately. Something is very obviously wrong, but as a reader it’s hard to put your finger on what it is exactly. This novel is an homage to all the best tropes of the genre- from the garishly decorated haunted house (SPOILER: Think ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Stetson), to the rumors of mad women committing shocking acts of violence a la Mrs. Rochester, to the creepily ambiguous denouement.
On the other hand, Noemi Taboada is quite possibly the most winsome protagonist in modern horror-a departure from the timid, girl next door type. A glamorous, inquisitive, chain-smoking debutante from 1950s Mexico City, she is charm itself wrapped in purple taffeta. While Noemi’s stated goal is to discover what it is about her cousin Catalina’s new home that has led to her sharp and sudden decline, that goal soon falls to the wayside as Noemi tries to unravel the mystery of High Place itself. At first her new in-laws just appear to be very strange (and more than a little bit racist, yikes!) but the depths of their depravity will throw you for a loop.
This is certainly no run of the mill ghost story. If you’re in the mood for something dark and twisted but utterly unique, I highly recommend it. Just be ready to sleep with the lights on.
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