Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic, Jo Fletcher Books, 2020.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a modern masterpiece of supernal gothic, full of tension and deliciously creepy.
Noemí is a young socialite in the early 20th century Mexico. One day, her family receives a distressing letter from her cousin who recently married. Noemí is sent to a mountainous area, where her cousin's husband's estate is located. She arrives in a formerly grand house, inhabited by her cousin's husband's family. Their habits are intriguing, and Noemí, a young woman full of life and intelligent, is immediately at odds with them.
CW: attempted rape, abuse, psychological and body horror.
It's no secret that I love Moreno-Garcia's writing and over the years, she's had me reading genres I'm not a fan of and having tremendous fun while doing it. Mexican Gothic is no exception. Despite not being into horror, I devoured this novel and it's in great part because of the main character, Noemí.
Noemí is a wonderful character you immediately like: she's smart, witty and determined. She enjoys life, flirting, and making her own choices. Moreno-Garcia writes her in such a life-like and sympathetic way that it's impossible not to root for her.
As in every good Gothic novel, you also need a gallery of creepy characters, and Moreno-Garcia delivers with the Doyles, the family her cousin married into. From the creepy and racist patriarch to the sour cousin and her shy son, the Doyles are complex and mysterious, so much so that you don't know where the danger will come from.
The title says it all: Mexican Gothic. As if this is the novel defining this subgenre. And honestly, this could quite very well be. Moreno-Garcia takes all the gothic tropes and makes them her own effortlessly. Creepy mansion? Check. Foreboding countryside? Check. Haunting and mysterious past? Check. Sense of claustrophobia? Check. Abusive male power? Check.
But it is Mexican gothic. And so the ghosts of colonisation come knocking. A past shrouded in mystery informs the horrors of the present, and Noemí will have to unravel it before she can act. Thanks to that, Moreno-Garcia truly makes the tropes her own to play with, and she plays masterfully. Had Jane Austen read Mexican Gothic, she may not have felt compelled to satirise the genre!
The pace is perfect for the genre. You'll go from edge-of-the-seat moment to edge-of-the-seat moment, with twists and reversal of fortunes that will have you screaming at the book for the character to flee.
The prose is straightforward, with some lyrical moments, and conveys perfectly the creepiness, the feelings of helplessness and outrage, or the body horror.
Mexican Gothic isn't for everyone, but if you feel up for it, it's an amazing read that you will devour and the characters will remain with you for a long time.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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