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Mexican Gothic

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,0601296,050 (3.73)102
"The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico"--
  1. 21
    The Changeling by Victor LaValle (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Both involve some horror and creepiness, but I like The Changeling more than I liked Mexican Gothic.
  2. 01
    The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (Horishny95)
    Horishny95: I enjoyed Mexican Gothic very much. Would recommend this for those who like revenge.

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» See also 102 mentions

English (128)  Italian (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
While the story is well written and the suspense draws you in, it lost me at the big reveal of what was actually going on, at which point it moved from suspenseful and creepy into just plain silly and gross. ( )
  gothamajp | Nov 10, 2021 |
Well. Don’t read this at night and not near any mushrooms. ( )
  Cerestheories | Nov 8, 2021 |
I was really disappointed by this one. I enjoyed one of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's previous novels, Gods of Jade and Shadow, quite a bit and so was willing to step a little out of my comfort zone for the sake of a good read. My leap of faith was not rewarded. Admittedly that's partly just down to me as a reader: I am not normally one for Gothic or horror novels, and Mexican Gothic contains a lot of content (threatened or implied past sexual assault; body horror; referenced past incest) that I'm just too much of a wimp for.

But even if I set aside my discomfort with those parts of the novel, I just didn't think this was a particularly good book. The much-advertised twist wasn't just foreshadowed, Noémi might as well have walked through the main door of High Place for the first time beneath a carved inscription reading "Chekov's Gun." I could have suspended my disbelief more about the overall plot if there had been a slower and more subtle build. As it was, pretty much from the first mention of fungus/mushroom motifs in the house decor together with the mould on the walls, I said aloud, "Oh, they're controlled by mushrooms." Which was basically right but also not a big reveal you wait with bated breath for past the first half-dozen heavily dropped clues..

Then, too, characterisation is thin, some of the prose clunky or tone-deaf (am really not sure what note Moreno-Garcia thought she was striking when she kept breaking off to describe Noémi's socialite outfits in careful detail), the ending a Netflix horror film cliché, and the sense of place lacking. Yes, there are very clear metaphors here about colonialism and patriarchy, but what makes this "Mexican Gothic" as opposed to a story which could be retold with essentially very little difference about many other parts of the world which Europeans colonised? I honestly couldn't say. I also spent a lot of the book wondering if there was going to be some much more complex twist that centred around identity and colonialism because the Doyle family's role as racist, English colonisers is stressed so much—but Doyle is an Irish name, not English. "Ó Dubhghaill" Irish. If you're saying to yourself "but Arthur Conan", his grandfather was from...

Mostly just a reminder to steer clear from this genre. ( )
  siriaeve | Nov 7, 2021 |
What a trip - this generally immerses itself in the gothic tropes, until the plot takes a hard swerve. Then the book really took off for me. I won't spoil anything here. Rather than Noemi being the cliche of a Gothic heroine, she must go rescue her cousin Catalina who is more of the type, from a creepy house and creepy family. I expected this to be tied more to Mexico, considering the name of the book. I was hoping this would subvert Gothic stereotypes even more than it did... though it is tough to take books like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre off of their pedestals. This made for a perfect, fun Halloween read though! ( )
  booklove2 | Oct 31, 2021 |
Finally found the Halloween read I'd been looking for!

Many of the quotes compare Noemi to Jane Eyre or the nameless narrator of Rebecca, but unlike those two timid creatures coming into high society for the first time, Noemi is already an upper-class socialite well used to the habits and manners of the rich--she just enjoys breaking them from time to time, and she's charming enough to get away with it.

Which is precisely why her father sends her from her bright, glittering social circle in Mexico City to check on her newlywed cousin, who has sent an incoherent, unhinged-sounding letter from the remote, ode-to-old-England manse in the silver-rich mountains where she lives with her new husband and his stubbornly British family. Better to sort things out quietly than cause a scandal, after all, and Noemi is vibrant, tenacious, charming--surely things that will help her determine the mental health of her beloved cousin and convince the old, house-poor foreign family to do what's best for their new member.

The Doyles came to Mexico in the mid-1800s, bringing their family history of silver mining to a land that still had silver to mine. However, the stubbornly resisted any chance of assimilation with the local Mexican culture: they do not speak any Spanish, brought British workers to build their impressive (but now gone-to-seed) house, British soil for their British roses, British servants (of which only three remain), and a British doctor. But the mines were abandoned after a series of accidents and the family fortunes waned as strange things began to happen to the Doyle household. Now they're more insular than ever:
> Virgil, Catalina's whirlwind romance and new husband, movie-star handsome, the only one who seems up with the times, but who carries an air of menace;
> Francis, his weedy and unimpressive cousin, the only one who will give Noemi the time of day;
> Florence, Francis's mother, a strict woman who takes an instant disliking to Noemi's lack of concern for stifling household rules;
> and Howard, Virgil's grandfather, the family patriarch, a deathly ill devotee of eugenic theory who is nevertheless fascinated by Noemi.

As the days turn into weeks, Noemi finds little time to see Catalina in Florence's strict schedule of medicine and rest. She explores the dark, moldering house and its mushroomed graveyard and tries to ignore the terrifying, psychedelic dreams she's having more and more frequently...a tall order when they've resurrected a childhood sleepwalking habit that brings her in uncomfortable proximity to Virgil. At least Francis is on her side enough to give her lifts into town where she consults with the local doctor and folk healer, hoping someone will have an idea of how to help Catalina.

I make it sound like Noemi isn't doing much, and it's true that there's little she can do--it's the 1950s and reputations must be maintained in her family's circles. But Noemi is a fantastic heroine, driven and funny, with a self-awareness about her spoiled upbringing and good looks that lets her use them without letting them go to her head. She's self-possessed and confident, in stark contrast to the afore-mentioned Jane Eyre and, especially, the narrator of Rebecca. She's on home ground in her country--the Doyles are the odd ones out on an estate almost literally transplanted from England to Mexico, and they know it.

Unlike the Doyles, who have remained unchanged by their surroundings, the classic gothic tropes have been mixed, transformed, and turned out as something even better than the sum of their parts. It's not really the geographic transplantation that brings something new, since the Doyles are so culturally insulated, but the way that Moreno-Garcia filters those tropes through her remarkable characters and, as she explains in some short essays at the back of my edition, a post-colonial lens. Yes, there are familiar elements in here--fellow fans of the "The Yellow Wallpaper" will probably appreciate the dated Doyle décor--but almost none of them leads where you expect them to. Crimson Peak fans, you'll probably like this a lot, too.

The one Obligatory Complaint: the mushrooms were a bit too obvious. I knew from the beginning that the mushrooms were probably key to the plot.

I was also taken more aback than usual by the threats and attempts of sexual assault. Perhaps they hit me especially hard because Noemi and Catalina were already psychologically compromised--for Noemi to be physically threatened as well felt worse than usual.

All in all, one of the better books I've read in quite a while. I whole-heartedly recommend this one!

Quote Roundup

p. 58) Noemi remembered what Virgil had said about men doing as she wanted. It bothered her to be thought of poorly. She wanted to be liked. Perhaps this explained the parties, the crystalline laughter, the well-coiffed hair, the rehearsed smile. She thought that men such as her father could be stern and men could be cold like Virgil, but women needed to be liked or they'd be in trouble. A woman who is not liked is a bitch, and a bitch can hardly do anything: all avenues are closed to her.
The narrative is rarely this overt, but it's passaged like these that make me appreciate Noemi for her truthfulness with herself, which is a big reason why I liked her character so much.

p. 146) She felt twin flames inside her heart, anger and shame. She hated the way he was talking to her, hated this entire conversation. And yet had she not done a foolish thing? Hadn't she earned a reprimand?
I feel like many authors would have given Noemi only one of these emotions. Moreno-Garcia keeps her complex and human with a great economy of words and space.

p. 152) "I can't leave!"
First she considered the immense disappointment she'd cause her father. He'd sent her as an ambassador, to squelch scandal and provide answers, and she would return home empty-handed. Their deal would be void--no master's degree for her, ever--and worse than that, she hated the taste of failure.
Besides, she didn't dare to go anywhere with Catalina in this state.
Priorities, am I right? I'm sure it would make some readers hate Noemi that Catalina doesn't come to mind first--I was certainly surprised--but again, it's what makes her so much more intriguing that classic gothic heroines. (I don't think this is a spoiler--every gothic book I've ever read has the protagonist consider turning back from their course at least once.)

Light spoilers follow, though not plot related.

p. 236) "And what a pretty face you have. Dark skin, dark eyes. Such a novelty."
Dark meat, she thought. Nothing but meat, she was the equivalent of a cut of beef inspected by the butcher and wrapped up in waxed paper. An exotic little something to stir the loins and make the mouth water.
Eugh. This kind of talk was as much a part of the horror, to me, as the body horror.

p. 261) He was right that she liked to play, that she enjoyed flirting and teasing and dancing, that they were so careful around her because she was a Taboada, and once in a while a coil of darkness wrapped itself around her heart and she wished to strike, like a cat.
But even as she was admitting this, even as Noemi knew this was a part of her, she also knew that it was not her.
Virgil's refusal to allow Noemi to define the borders of her own physical and emotional feelings was also part of the horror--the presumption of assigning thoughts and desires to another in a place where that assignment can be manifested.
( )
  books-n-pickles | Oct 29, 2021 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Moreno-Garcia, Silviaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corzo, FrankieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Green, TimCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scocchera, GiovannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Para mi madre
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The parties at the Tuñóns' house always ended unquestionably late, and since the hosts enjoyed costume parties in particular, it was not unusual to see Chinas Poblanas with their folkloric skirts and ribbons in their hair arrive in the company of a harlequin or a cowboy.
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"The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico"--

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