Spunky young socialite Noemí discovers that her newly-married cousin’s new family has nefarious—and supernaturally icky—plans for them both in Moreno-Garcia’s shivery spellbinder.
Mexican Gothic—Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 2020. Rating: 5/5
Noemí Taboada bounces from boy to boy, party to party, and dress to dress while searching for her passion. She’s landed on archaeology and wants to go to grad school. Her traditional father finally agrees—if she travels to a remote Mexican mountain town to check on her cousin Catalina, who married into an English family. Catalina’s most recent letter, in which she claims to see ghosts in the walls and insists she is being poisoned, suggests she is having a mental breakdown.
Determined to prove to her father that she is more than a flighty social butterfly, Noemí travels to High Place, the decaying Doyle family seat. Noemí meets the repugnant family patriarch Howard Doyle, ancient, pale, and frighteningly fond of eugenics; Virgil, Catalina’s calculating, sexually magnetic husband; Florence, the domineering head of household; and her son Francis, gentle, shy, and the only one whom Noemí comes to trust—potentially at her peril. Catalina is bedridden, suffering from “tuberculosis” and Noemí has time to explore the mountain village and learn the ominous rumors surrounding the family. When Noemí begins sleepwalking and experiencing terrifying visions, she realizes the horrible danger both she and Catalina face.
* Insert delighted shiver. *
Mexican Gothic delivers on its gothic promise. A dark brooding atmosphere complete with a fogbound cemetery and moldering Victorian manse. Isolated damsels in distress at the whims of a strange, malevolent family. An eerily sentient house. Fungus. Sexual tension. Threats of madness. What’s not to love? While Mexican Gothic lovingly draws on all these elements of classic gothic horror—including nods to Poe, Lovecraft, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman—it offers a fresh story from a unique perspective. The setting of 1950s Mexico informs the characters’ thoughts, beliefs, and actions. The underlying menace of eugenics and the Doyle family’s involvement with the local silver mine touch on issues of female oppression and racism. Noemí, though she enjoys her rich-daughter status, is something of a rebel for both the time and place. Following the rules—at home, or at High Place—is not something Noemí is very good at. With a sarcastic mouth and a soft heart, Noemí is a smart, confident (and always well-dressed) heroine. Mexican Gothic is a dark delight.