Silvia Moreno-Garcia | June 2020 | 309pp
Released in June 2020, I still see the cover art to this book everywhere. All deep jewel tones: green damask background, bare brown shoulders, and shiny black bob length hair, framed in a deep burgundy, laced and frilled frock, gorgeous. And since Im a lover of jewel tones, damask and frocks..this was a no brainer, cover art inspired, buy. I’ll learn one day. 🤦🏾♀️
Noemí Taboada is a young girl, living the high life in 1950’s Mexico City. Attractive and rich, she’s a smart party girl, biding her time until daddy forces her into marriage but, really hoping to escape it all to pursue a masters education. (I think the author wants to set her up as some sort of feminist but, it doesn’t really pan out for me. She is individually minded and frankly, thats enough.) One day, the family receives an ominous letter from Noemí’s favorite cousin, Catalina. Last year, Cat married a supposedly well-todo white man, but now, she writes that he is trying to kill her! Please, can someone come save her? Daddy, convinces headstrong Noemí to travel into the middle of nowheresville, Mexico to find out whats going on. When Noemí arrives, things are weird as shit. The family doesn’t appear to be as rich as they claim, the husband seems to be low-key flirting with her, the husbands father is a million years old and creepy as hell, and the husbands mother is mean as a cobra. The house is creaky, drafty, unkempt and old. Her cousin vacillates between ok, sending her on errands to the city for obscure tinctures, to incoherent, needing days of unbothered ‘rest’ as demanded by the mean as a snake mother in-law. When Noemí does venture into the ‘city’ she learns of some pretty creepy ghost stories about the families past, she doesn’t think her father will be very happy about. What is a savior to do?
Pros or Con…depending on how fast you want your book to move: There is a lot of world building here. Several of the first handful of chapters are spent describing Noemí’s life as a socialite and every piece of jewelry, fur and frock she owns. 🤦🏾♀️ We hear all about the girls upbringing, how Catalina came to live with the family…blah, blah, blah. It paints a picture but, ultimately doesn’t push the story forward. And, even though I’m Team All Things Over the Top and enjoyed reading about the opulence, it went on for too long, was very detailed and I got bored. Its a shame because later, once Noemí reaches her cousin, the same time and care is taken describing the house and I think the payoff is greater. Alas, gothic relies heavily on setting the scene with tone, texture and style and here is where you have to allow the extra indulgence, I guess. I was invested and interested enough to finish the book, but, I switched to the audio version. Chores needed to be done and this wasn’t worth the cost of skipping them. 😒😫
When we finally get beyond building scenes, the story slowly pitches forward to a crescendo. There are lots of characters but, the husbands brother as Noemí’s love interest is what anchors her to the house. Goth typically revolves around a romance trope, this is no different. When escape is needed and possible, she reaches for him and it could be a mistake.
There is also this interesting side plot about racism and how whites have inserted themselves within the culture and attempted to take advantage. Apparently, the old patriarch of the family, stashed upstairs in the attic, and who ultimately owns the house, has some strong ideas around mixed races and other races in general. This could be a bit of a trigger so, fair warning.
The overall plot, without giving up too much, is the family needs Noemí. They need her, the cousin and the families money to pursue their family legacy. The question is, to what extent will they go to secure what they need?
I think it’s important to note that gothic is a genre, with its own style and reliable tropes. Its not one I typically read, though, a few stories have come close enough to true horror, that I could be entertained. Bram Stockers Dracula immediately comes to mind, but also The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe. Numbers say most of us prefer our goth in movie format, loving Crimson Peak, Interview With a Vampire and Frankenstein. To me, gothic is more ghastly ghosts and frights from super weird and/or haunted shit, rather than horrific, thriller, whodunnits. Im no literati, but, in my opinion, Mexican Gothic was a fair modern twist on the genre, that maybe edged a bit closer to horror and will be able to intrigue a new audience.
Good story, though slow moving and more about 1950’s Mexico and some small towns scandalous history around white business owners and Mexican laborers than anything else. Ending is somewhat predictable but, I didn’t walk away feeling like I wasted my time reading this book. Just keep in mind, this is as much about the beautiful journey as it is about the ending. GoodBook #43
Liked this book? Check out these reviews:
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed 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, smart, and has 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.