Mexican Gothic: My introduction to the next layer of Gothic novels

The first thing that should be abundantly clear is that Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is not your classic Bronte or Du Maurier gothic novel. As far as I’ve read, this book is in a class all its own. That said, despite the bizarre nature of some of the plot, the mystery and intrigue were great.

Mexican Gothic is set in 1950s Mexico, where Noemi Taboada is sent to investigate a strange and frantic letter sent by her newly married cousin, Catalina. When Noemi arrives at High Place, its isolated and gloomy atmosphere hints at strange and dark secrets. Before long, Noemi finds herself affected by the house and its inhabitants and only one thought is keeping her going–escaping with Catalina.

Escape seems to be impossible and Noemi is stuck wrestling against the darker parts of her nature that beg to flourish at High Place. As she starts to unravel the threads of the history, the truth is something she never could have imagined.

This book was a little slow to start, and I had trouble really sinking into the story because it didn’t feel like it was set in the 1950s. Too often I felt myself jarred out of the story wondering if such a thing would happen or if they spoke that way in the ’50s. It wasn’t until pieces of the family history started to be revealed and connected (about halfway through the book) that I was able to set everything else aside and really focus on the storyline. Additionally, I didn’t feel like there was anything particularly “Mexican” about this gothic novel. Aside from being set in Mexico and some people having Mexican names, it could have taken place anywhere.

I’m pretty convinced nothing could have prepared me for the direction this story went. At first, I was unsure of how Moreno-Garcia was going to tie together all the various threads and motifs she had going. But she managed it nicely, albeit very unexpectedly. It veers almost into fantasy more than fiction, hence why it stands out as very different than other gothic novels that I’ve read.

Overall, I’ve got mixed feelings about the book. I’m glad I borrowed it instead of buying it, but it’ll make for great book club discussion.

A few content/trigger warnings may be helpful to some readers, though: the book includes some mildly descriptive gore and sicknesses, attempted rape, and a reference to cannibalism.

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