Page Turner: Mexican Gothic

In-laws can be tricky. Sometimes they say insensitive things at the dinner table, while other times they harbour dark intentions that threaten your life.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia follows socialite Noemí Taboada, who receives an ominous letter from her beloved cousin, Catalina. It seems that the honeymoon period with her new husband has been cut short.

Noemí by @kelleymcmorris

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

After cutting a deal with her father, she goes to Catalina’s aid. However, as soon as she crosses the High Place threshold, things take a dark turn. From the strict rules from the cold staff to the patriarch of the family who takes an uncomfortable interest in her, things don’t look good. She is far from her element here, but she refuses to leave until she can rest easy knowing that Catalina is well.

Then the dreams begin. Strange visions of death and doom, alluding to a dark family secret or two. Nightmares that seem to overlap with the waking world. Is the house haunted, or is it the family?

Right off the bat, I adored this book. It’s creepy and unsettling. You can feel the oppressive atmosphere of High Palace as you read it. This book infects you with an overwhelming sense of dread with next to no moments of respite. 

Noemí Taboada isn’t a traditional gothic heroine, they often tend to be meek and innocent. If they are smart, they tend to hide it for most of the story. Noemí, on the other hand, is outspoken and brave, not taking any nonsense. I wish I were half the woman she is. 

The setting is classic gothic fare, a once-grand house that has been worn down by the sands of time, complete with a family graveyard that is always coated in a thick fog. It sits above and isolated from the small village of El Triunfo and the outside world at large. Home to an unsettling family who keeps you guessing as to what their true intentions are. Although you can safely assume they aren’t pleasant. From charming but menacing Virgil, strict and disapproving Florance to the dominating and frankly gross patriarch Howard.

The Youngest, Francis Doyal seems to be the only one on her side, but even then, he is a touch reluctant to share the whole story with Noemí.

The story also deals with themes of sexual assault, sexism and racism. When we first meet Howard Doyle, his talk about eugenics with Noemí disturbed me, in part because I have heard folk talk like that in real life. Gross is an understatement.

Art and header art by Abigail Larson

In a way, Mexican Gothic is a female lead gothic version of Get Out. Both deal with racism, bloodlines and similar plot points that I will not spoil.

If you love gothic novels, you need to read Mexican Gothic. It does the genre justice and deserves to sit alongside the titans of gothic literature. Funnily enough, the novel namedropped my favourite gothic story, Wuthering Heights

Well, it might be my second favourite now after reading Mexican Gothic.

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