Cover Image: Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic

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Member Reviews

Could not get into this one. The atmospheric writing was difficult for me to keep up with. This was my first attempt into some horror abd unsure the genre is for me.
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I thought this book was a little light on the surface but the central mystery was compelling and moved along at a rapid pace, the main character was enjoyable and the conclusion left just the right amount of openended-ness for a good mystery.
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Delightfully creepy story of a young socialite in 1950s Mexico, trying to unravel the mysteries of a possibly (probably... definitely...) haunted house and the family that owns it.
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This was a well written gothic novel, exactly as advertised. Spooky house? Check. Deep setting? Check. Creepy, mysterious family and servants? Check. Young single woman protagonist effectively confined to said creepy house? Check. Solid work and moderately compelling. 

What it wasn't was especially Mexican. Yes, it takes place in Mexico, but that's window dressing. The spooky family is even English and speaks English. The story could be easily translated to India, or Australia, or New England, or China without losing a beat. It's a very straight-forward down the middle of the road story with only one minor twist that was at all surprising. 

By contrast, the competing Nebula nominee The City We Became doesn't use NYC as mere window dressing. The whole story is so intimately tied up in New York that you couldn't move it fifty miles without turning it into a radically different novel. It is one of the most New York novels I have ever read. It is certainly the best representation of pre-Covid NYC circa 2019 I have ever seen or probably ever will see, and at least equal and perhaps superior to some of the most NYC novels of previous decades: books like Bright Lights, Big City, A Cannibal in Manhattan, House of Mirth, The Buddies Cycle, or Last Exit to Brooklyn. NYC keeps changing and the novels change with it. The City We Became is the latest in a long line of truly wonderful New York novels.

Mexican Gothic is good; make no mistake about that. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is indeed a very talented writer who can make a sentence sing and keep the tension building. However what this book isn't is original or unique, and that's what keeps me from calling it a great book. It is instead a perfectly executed rendition of familiar Gothic tropes. Well done.
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I liked this, but didn't love it for two reasons:
1. I disliked the main character, and that kept throwing me out of the story. Her "flirting" with Francis early on felt cruel and on par with Virgil's leering. Her reason for staying, in her own words, was that "she wasn't going to back down," and had nothing to do with Catalina's welfare at all. All of her decisions felt selfish. It was hard to root for her.
2. Everything was telegraphed too clearly for me to actually feel horror. The dreams and the Gloom were all excellent, and I would have liked to be creeped all the way out. Instead, I found myself having to be patient while we got there.

I also didn't like how often we were told that Virgil was handsome and Francis was not. It seemed to parallel how Howard kept talking about looks and purity, and not in a good way.

I really liked Francis. I loved that he found small joy and sanity in his horrific world. The whole mystery revealed was delightfully awful, and the villains were truly terrible and monstrous. Also kinda gross, but in a good, horror way.
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this one was a special read for me. Sometimes I forget how much I crave stories from my Mexico lindo. The Mexican culture is fascinating, rich in realism, creepy tales, rich in pride and family values. The curandera in the story is someone that holds all the secrets and cures people with her potions. Curanderas are real and the last time I was advised to use WD-40 for my ligament strain, never had problems again. But anyways... so many parts of this books connected with how I was raised. ⁣
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The 1950s timeline and all the house rules equal a creepy AF story! I absolutely loved Noemí and her bad ass take on life. She wasn’t willing to conform to social standards. Her family was above all and she did everything to help her cousin without thinking of the consequences. The secrets this family held were insane, I cringed, I gasped and I was invested. The beautiful writing sucked me in and the creepy vibes kept me turning the pages to learn more about this dysfunctional family. ⁣
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I’m especially excited to see how all of these characters come alive in the @hulu series. This gothic tale definitely reminded me of The Yellow Wall Paper and even a hint of Dracula. What are you waiting for? Go read it! ⁣
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4 stars. I loved the atmosphere and setting, but the plot was ridiculous. I love weird stuff, but this was just odd. I still enjoyed the story though. Review to come.

Due to being a high school teacher, I have been falling behind on reviews. Here are my initial thoughts.
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MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is about Neomi Tabaoada who receives a letter from her newlywed cousin and then heads to High Place, an isolated mansion in the Mexican countryside, to check on her and learns that things are not what they seem.

This book far exceeded all expectations that I had for it. I love gothic novels and this book held up to all my favorites. I will definitely be adding this to my list of favorite books. Plus, I love that it takes place in Mexico and features a strong female Mexicana.
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I read this as part of my Nebula finalist packet.

I don't normally read horror, but the distinct gothic tinge of this book gripped me from the start and wouldn't let go. The writing is phenomenal, the setting perfectly mist-shrouded, the characters complex, the story terrifying. So yeah, even though I typically avoid horror, this is totally a five-star book for me, and I think it may avoid fungi for a while.
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My first Spooky season book! I have really come to enjoy Gothic horror lately, and Mexican Gothic delivered.

Set in the 1950s, we meet Noemí who has received a disturbing letter from her married cousin living in High Place with her Englishman husband. In order to make sure she is ok, Noemí sets out to the Mexican countryside to investigate.

I admit, it took me a bit to get into this book, but once I did, there was really no stopping for me. SMG’s ability to create such an unsettling atmosphere makes me shiver as I type this. 

A haunted castle, a strange, creepy family, and an ending that leaves you going “wtf”, I highly recommend you pick this up. 

And I will never, ever look at mushrooms the same. If you know, you know. 🍄
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WOW! Better late than never, but I cannot say enough good things about this book. I adored GODS OF JADE AND SHADOW and couldn't wait to see what spin Moreno-Garcia put on the gothic fiction genre. I was absolutely blown away by the masterful way she builds tension while also injecting moments of levity throughout. When the final reveal happened, I was literally on the edge of my seat racing to the end of the book. This is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants a good spook or who adores an incredibly well-crafted mystery.
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Very slow going at first, but those last one hundred or so pages had me racing along to the ending. Deliciously Gothic and creepy, even if it was rather a slow burner. I have since devoured everything she has written, and they are just as good!
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When her newlywed cousin Catalina writes an odd letter accusing her husband of trying to poison her, Normí Taboada is dispatched to find out exactly what is going on. Noemí, an ambitious socialite who wants more from life than to be a wife, makes a deal with her father that if she goes on this errand then he will allow  her to study Anthropology at the university. Noemí and her father agree to the terms and she sets off to El Triunfo where Catalina and her husband, Virgil Doyle live in a manor called High Place. 
Once she arrives, nothing is as Noemí expects; High Place is old, damp, dark, and dilapidated, Catalina seems to be ok but still somehow ill and not herself, and Virgil and his family are probably some of the most peculiar people Noemí has ever met. 
I have to admit I started and stopped reading this book several times. It started off kind of slow but once I gave it a chance it picked up and never stopped. Many times while reading I was confused on exactly what direction  the author was taking the story. It wasn’t until probably 3/4ths through the book that all of pieces  started fitting together and everything started to make sense. And that is when my stomach started turning. The psychological violence that the main Noemí, Francis, Catalina, and others  endure is absolutely horrific. The imagination that t took for the author to come up with this kind if story must be completely off the charts, because I could have never in a million years thought of something like this. 
The title Mexican Gothic doesn’t quite capture the essence of what this story is about, and based on the cover I was expecting something completely different. However, I’m glad that I persevered and came back to this because this was truly a really good story with one hell of a plot!
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I'm not sure why I was surprised to find "Mexican Gothic" to be so, well...gothic. It definitely lives up to its name, and Moreno-Garcia does an excellent job early on at hitting all of the gothic tropes to pull the reader in: mysterious, crumbling manor? Check. A heroine struggling to understand a strange world? Check. Dark family secrets bubbling beneath the surface? Check.

Gothic fiction isn't something I read a great deal of, but even I could see how masterfully Moreno-Garcia handled the genre. It just wasn't something that totally sucked me in. That is, until I hit the mid-point of the novel and the secrets of the house began to slowly reveal themselves and "Mexican Gothic" transforms more into more of a cosmic horror novel...something right up my alley. I won't provide any spoilers, but for those horror buffs out there that perhaps find the early chapters to be a bit too tame, I urge you to continue on. You'll get your dread fix.

It's easy to see why "Mexican Gothic" has been so lauded, and I won't be surprised to see Netflix snatch it up for a movie. Moreno-Garcia has assembled an interesting cast of characters, and our protagonist Noemi is well-developed, likeable if spoiled, and drives the story forward.

An excellent book and well worth the time of any reader, whether an avid horror buff or not.
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Where has Silvia Moreno-Garcia been all my life? Or more accurately, where have I been? Absolutely bizarre and horrific in the best way and the lyrical writing takes it over the top. A little bit of a slow start for me but without giving it away, I ended up adoring the chilling atmosphere and expertly drawn parallels to real issues.
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Loved this book so much. From the cover to the entire story. I devoured this book in two nights because I could but it down. I have recommended it to so many people.
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I confess that this took me out of my comfort zone, I am not naturally drawn to the gothic/horror genre but I have to say it was the cover that swung me in the book’s favour; that, and also because it was set in Mexico. Just see, the power of the book cover ad location!

Catalina is living with her husband Virgil Doyle, in the misty mountains near El Triunfo in the family mansion, where patriarch Howard Doyle is still wheezing away his days on his looming death bed. The family have mined the silver in the area for several generations. Catalina has sent a letter to her cousin Noemí’s family in Mexico City and Noemí is despatched to check on the health and well-being of Catalina. It seems that she might be experiencing psychological disturbance.

Noemí arrives and almost immediately a shiver runs down her spine. It is a dank and dreary building, and the household is ruled with an iron fist (absolutely no speaking over dinner), with sharp-tongued Florence as at the helm.

As Noemí delves deeper, she discovers all kinds of horrors and mysteries – and death.

It is a reflective storyline, leaving the reader to ponder whether the house is sick or whether the sins of the ancestors – colonisers plundering the land for its resources – are being visited upon this generation.

I was enthralled by the first third of the book, the writing and storytelling fully drew me in. Thereafter it levelled out for me. The longer she stays, the more Noemí sinks into the bowels of the sinister clutch of the house and its occupants. She starts to sleep walk, apparently, and the blur between reality and ghostly adventures starts to add confusion to her days. Soon thereafter it goes into more otherworldly realms. This is not my genre of choice and sometimes one just needs to step out of one’s comfort zone and expand one’s horizons. In many ways I am very glad I have read it. The New Yorker says its addictive prose “..is as easy to slurp down as a poisoned cordial…” It is indeed!
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MEXICAN GOTHIC is an instant classic. Expertly summoning a particular gothic writing style that truly immerses you in the world of the story, a part of me couldn't wait to turn the page, but another big part of me wanted to stay on the page and remain deeply inside this world. Blending gothic elements, romance, and weird fiction, the detail and richness strike a perfect blend. Yes: there are moments in the book that truly go into some serious body horror, but in the end? It makes sense and doesn't end up being as salacious as one might think. Without spoiling anything, I will say I believe this book is worth sticking through to the end. It's a story that stays with you long after reading. Siliva Moreno-Garcia is one of the best authors creating stories today.
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Why did I wait so long to read this book?!?! It was well worth the wait and was throughly enjoyable. A mystery, horror novel wrapped in with a long standing family secret. A story that features a strong independent female fighting against a male centric power structure who is determined to free herself and her cousin.
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You might remember your friends here at #BookSquadGoals reviewing one of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s previous novels, Gods of Jade and Shadow, in a podcast episode. This book… is not that book. This one is very different. 

One of the things that is so intriguing to me about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work is her willingness to try different genres. Gods of Jade and Shadow is a play on Mayan mythology set in Mexico during the jazz age. Earlier this year, she came out with  a thriller novel called Untamed Shore. And in this, her SECOND novel of 2020, Moreno-Garcia taps into gothic horror.

But was it any good? And what does it mean for something to be Mexican gothic? And can I manage to talk about this book without spoiling anything? And what the heck did I just read?

My answers to follow. And yes, I am going to try to avoid spoilers here. Wish me luck.

Alright so. Noemí Taboada is a wealthy socialite living it up in the city, going to fabulous parties and wearing extravagant dresses to every occasion, even if it’s just to go downstairs to eat breakfast. For real though. 

Then she gets a distressing letter from her cousin Catalina, who married a white man and moved off to his big spooky old house in the countryside to live happily ever after. Except it’s not happily ever after because now Catalina is writing to her cousin saying that she’s afraid she’s going to die and she needs help ASAP. 

So Noemí travels to see her cousin at this old scary mansion that’s falling apart and filled with white people. And if you’re starting to get Get Out vibes, you are absolutely on the right track. But since Get Out was spoiled for me by all of the trailers, I’m not going to do that to you. I’m just going to give you a little wink and this gif. Ta-da.

Everything you need for a good gothic story is here. The setting for the novel, High Place, is literally falling apart. I was kind of picturing the big mansion with the giant hole in the ceiling from Crimson Peak. This book takes place in the 1950’s, but there’s no electricity in the house. The family of High Place is so white they glow in the dark, so they don’t need lights at night, apparently. 

But for real. This family made all of their money in a mining business that died out years ago, and now they’re just… rotting in their old house I guess? You quickly see why getting in with Noemí’s wealthy family would be appealing to this lot. But that’s just the beginning.

I’m biting my tongue from here on out because I was very surprised by this novel, and I wouldn’t want to ruin that for anyone else. But one thing I do want to talk about is the title Mexican Gothic, and what about this book makes it particularly Mexican, especially since I’ve read some reviews that say this book is not Mexican enough. 

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When we meet Noemí at the beginning of the novel, she is getting ready to go to grad school and is clearly very smart, but she’s led a sheltered life. Due to her position as a woman from a wealthy family, she hasn’t had to come face-to-face with the harsher realities that many underprivileged people experience. Until now. 

At High Place, the very white, very English members of this family quickly put Noemí in her place due to her race and gender.  This family loves to comment on Noemí’s skin tone in comparison to her cousin Catalina, whose background is more European. And they love to tell her what she can and cannot do. For instance, she’s not supposed to speak at the dinner table, and she’s not allowed to go into town without her cousin’s brother-in-law Francis escorting her. 

And again… without giving too much away… At High Place, Noemí also learns of the many ways this English family has colonized Mexican people and used their bodies for labor in their home and in the mines, far beyond what would be considered ethical. Additionally, she sees how the men of High Place have colonized women’s bodies for their own desires and plans. I know all of this is really ambiguous, but trust me, you want to be surprised with this one. 

My point in saying this, however, is that I think what makes this book particularly a Mexican Gothic horror story is the ways in which it explores issues of racism, colonization, classism, and sexism that seem particular to Mexican history. There’s also a lot of creepy eugenics talk in this novel, which, to be fair, is horrifying in any country. 

Mexican Gothic is on one of those novels that took me a while to get into. At first, the gothic elements seemed a little heavy-handed. Like, really? Only candlelight in a house in the 1950s? But once the novel really gets going, all the pieces fall into place, and the slowness of the first pages of the novel really pays off in the end. And if you’re wondering if this is really a horror novel in the true sense of the word, I would say 100% it is. Just wait for it.

My main critique would be the romance storyline, which wouldn’t bother me so much if it was left in the background, but the way this novel ends brings the romance to the foreground in a way that didn’t feel earned. And maybe even felt a little (to use a technical term) icky. 

But if you’re looking for a novel that’s got the camp of Crimson Peak, the horror of Get Out, and a whole lot Gothic lit homages to novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, please check this out. 

I mean… who DOESN’T appreciate a little Crimson Peak camp?

If you read Mexican Gothic and have thoughts about it, I would love to have a spoiler-filled chat with you about it. There’s definitely a point in the book where you get to it and think, “Wait… WHAT?” And maybe you’ll do I like I did and scream aloud. It’s a surprise that’s earned, however, and I’m really pleased with the turns the book took. 

Read it and get back with me, people!
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