How does one eloquently review a book that they have been waiting forever for? Better question: How does one eloquently review a book that they have been waiting forever for and has had their expectations superseded by said book?
You can’t. It’s simply impossible.
Well it’s simply impossible if your name is Rendz and you are me.
But I’m gonna try it anyways.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Pub Date: June 30th, 2020
Publisher: Del Rey
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. 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. “It’s Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird” (The Guardian).
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.
This book was brilliant in so many ways. My experience with Gothic literature is minimal, but after reading this book it is definitely a genre that I would be more into. Mexican Gothic brings together both the supernatural and the realistic. It’s cozy and yet most definitely not. It entices you with the promise of danger, and while you relish in the thrill you fall into the dark with Noemí and need to claw your way back out. Classy and creepy all in one. A stylish and sinister read, as said by Gwenda Bond.
Noemí was the epitome of fabulous. I cannot explain to you how much I adored her character. As a young socialite who is working her way through the high life of Mexico City she is driven by her ambition and desire to get what she wants. She may not have a clear plan and changes her mind many times, but when she wants something she goes for it and we love to see it. She is fierce and sassy and flirtatious and stylish. The clothes she wore in this novel are divine. She was such an incredible character. From her strong desire to protect her cousin to her tumultuous rescue mission, she was always entertaining to read about. Does she tumble and fumble along the way? Absolutely. She likes the danger, she likes the scandal and the thrill. Probably not the best traits to have when interacting with this family. But she is also someone who deep down never lets anything truly stop her.
Catalina, while she was more of a background character, was still really fascinating. We mostly get a sense of Cata’s character from the anecdotes Noemi tells us about her fairy-tale, tragic romance loving cousin. She was a hopeless romantic and she sought the high that comes from having a lover that may be a little on the dark side. However, Cata *changes*. Oh I am treading the spoiler line, but wow I just really enjoyed seeing this transition in character. She is after all sort of the reason Noemi is pulled into this story, and she plays a big part in how it unfolds. We stan her, trust me.
(While we’re on the topic, fairy tales actually play somewhat of a symbolic role in this novel. And I’m not talking about the Disney kind, I’m talking about the old grim stories that are gruesome and horrific tales of gore and grief, but that attract the reader with a ~romance~ woven within its twists. hint hint nudge nudge.)
The Doyles. Oh the Doyles. I shouldn’t say much about them because spoilers, but I will give my two cents on them anyways. They were a creepy bunch from the very beginning to the very end. They were the symbol of white colonialism and the destruction colonists caused the people and the land that they infiltrated. They rub you wrong in every single way. And I can’t lie they are intriguing. I was simultaneously repulsed by them, but also wanted to know what’s up with them. We can only stan one young shy Doyle.
This is a slow burn so be prepared to spend some time soaking in the Gothic goodness and history that SMG provides us with. A good chunk of this book has Noemi getting a feel of what High Place is like. There’s lots of exploring and dreaming and realizing that things are not what they seem at all. And what makes this slow tread so special is that this book is incredibly atmospheric. The sun never shines in this novel. It doesn’t help that High Place has strict rules: no electricity, no hot water, no casual conversations. It thrives in gloom, cold and silence. Creepy right? SMG did a perfect job of transporting the reader into the house and wrapping them in the mist that surrounds the mountain. It furthers that sense of suspense that has us hanging on to every word that is put forth. This book is an experience, it’s the best way I can explain what it is like to read it. You are not merely an observer, but you are in the house with its listening walls and gloomy corridors.
So then we get to the 60% mark and things just start to happen and we tumble down this series of things getting bleaker and bleaker. Boom. Boom. Boom. As I discovered more about the history of the family and the house, things just get twistier and harder to piece out. And let me tell you this family is MESSED UP. There isn’t such a thing as an easy solution, Noemi is literally trapped in this house with these people.
That being said, the creep factor is high. And the dark factor is even higher. There are some things in this book, some images that I cannot get out of my head. Once specific image with mushrooms is just…*shivers* Towards the climax when the once mysterious elements of the story are brought to light, my heart actually started pumping. I haven’t had a heart-pumping read in a while. I was actually getting nervous. I was scared about what would happen next. And this is not like the movies where you can look away or cover your eyes and wait for things to pass. You have to read the things that happen, you have to live through it with Noemi and it is CREEPY.
And the horror isn’t only tied to the freaky supernatural things that go on. But also the repercussions of colonialism that lead to the deaths of so many Mexican minors. Eugenics and its twistedness was a huge factor in this novel. Especially when it comes to keeping bloodlines pure *looks judgmentally at a certain family* But it also explores Mexico in the 1950s where misogyny was rampant and women were trapped in the cages of their husbands rules. All these just add to the danger of what the supernatural elements impose on Noemi and so many others.
A Bonus Thought: After reading the novel, I read the Book Club Kit that goes into details about Real del Monte, the English colony that inspired the setting for this novel, and goes in depth about what the Gothic genre is about. And let me tell you, it just opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about. It gives lots of insight into how the setting and genre tie into the aims of the novel!
Overall, I think this book is a perfect creepy yet classy read. Noemi was such a fantastic character to follow. High Place and its ruling family kept up the sinister trap from beginning till end. This slow burn Gothic novel kept me hanging on with every turn of the page. It made my heart race and tingled my spine as it wrapped its misty cloak around me. I had wildly high expectations and because Silvia Moreno-Garcia is such an epic writer, she soared high over my hype.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend: Yes. Of course. Give yourself some chills this summer.
If you read that long as review, thank you! You’re a real one. If you just read the bold bits, thank you as well. You’re also a real one!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What was your favourite part? What books give you the creeps? Who are favourite sassy and classy characters?