‘Mexican Gothic’ is a unique novel, far different from what I’m used to reading. There are plenty of gothic novels out there, including famous ones like ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula.’ But this book, with its individual characters and vivid descriptions, will leave you glad you picked it up.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia transports us to 1950’s Mexico, a time where women had less advantages than they do today. We follow a beautiful socialite named Noemi Taboada, a confident and intelligent young woman who loves Mexico City’s nightlife, but also desires to study anthropology at university. Her parents object to this, but one night, she finally sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
After receiving a concerning letter from Noemi’s newlywed older cousin, Catalina, Noemi’s father asks her to go on a mission. Catalina’s frantic letter left him worried she was going insane, and that she may need a psychiatrist. Plus, the family name would be disgraced if she were to divorce her new husband. That’s what pushes him to send Noemi to the Mexican countryside, to go see what’s going on with her cousin. If she can do this, he’ll think about letting her study anthropology.
Noemi travels to High Place, a strange and foreboding home where Catalina lives with her new husband’s family. Immediately, Noemi knows there’s something off about this place, and this family. Plus, there’s a mystery surrounding the tragic past of the Doyle’s mine, which they established when they came over from England. Many workers died when an epidemic struck…but is that what really happened?
As Noemi speaks to Catalina, she’s convinced her cousin needs a psychiatrist as well. But when she begins to experience some of the things her cousin describes, she starts to see a doctor can’t quite solve the problem.
In rich prose, and honestly a pretty slow plot, ‘Mexican Gothic’ explores themes of race, women’s rights and marriage during an older time.
Morena-Garcia truly took her time in crafting a book with a thorough and convincing backstory, and characters who are each their own. Each character has their own voice, personality, wants and motives, which made the story come to life so much more. Pretty strange things happen, and the author does a great job at describing what’s going on and what’s being seen.
Our main character, Noemi, is a treat to follow. She’s quite sure of herself, despite the degrading societal norms of her time. Following her tells the reader a lot about women during that time. For example, it’s very clear Noemi was extremely conscious of how she acted around men. It’s evident she’s taken her time to think about and observe the different men she came into contact with, and how she had to handle each kind.
Going back to the pacing…the story is quite slow. It took a while for things to pick up because it was such a slow lead-up. However, once things really take off, the reader is in for a ride.
Moreno-Garcia puts you in a place where you’re frustrated with the house Noemi is trapped in, disgusted with some of the beliefs and customs of the Doyle family, and happy when there’s finally a victory.
If you can get past the slowness of the story, ‘Mexican Gothic’ is truly a treat to read.