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Mexican Gothic Hardcover – June 30, 2020
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“Stylish and edgy. . . While the book draws inspiration from Gothic classics like Rebecca and
Jane Eyre—there is a spunky female protagonist and an ancient house filled with disturbing secrets—its archly intelligent tone and insightful writing make Mexican Gothic an original escape to an eerie world.”—New York Times
“[An] irresistibly dark feminist reimagining of the Gothic fantasy novel . . . It’s all wonderfully creepy, blending chilling scenes of horror with classic Gothic tropes for a seductive and subversive tale. A book to devour in a few—very thrilling—sittings.”—Vanity Fair
“The author’s postcolonial spin on the gothic tradition evokes the usual suspects: Daphne du Maurier, Emily Brontë, Mary Shelley, even Anne Radcliffe. Like those authors, Moreno-Garcia works in a tradition in which chills and thrills tap into elemental cultural fears—runaway science, carnal passion. But to these she adds a more politically inflected horror, both ancient and timely.”—Los Angeles Times
“A new classic of the genre . . . alluring and foreboding, ambiguous and beautiful. And like its heroine Noemí, its ambitious, determined, and well worth getting to know.”—Chicago Review of Books
“This twisty horror fantasy is engrossing and wonderfully repulsive. . . . This is a must-read for fans of gothic writers like the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier, and Shirley Jackson, and also for those who enjoy the feminist, surreal fiction of Carmen Maria Machado.”—Buzzfeed
“Deliciously creepy . . . Read it with your lights on—and know that strange dreams might begin to haunt you, as they haunted Noemí.”—Vox
“Masterful . . . a gloriously moody adventure, spooky, smart, and wry. Chic, no-nonsense Noemí Taboada is one hell of a tour guide through this world of mystery, scandal and spirits.”—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
“Mexican Gothic terrified and fascinated me. Silvia Moreno-Garcia proves once again that she's a genre-jumping wizard, one of the most exciting and necessary authors writing today.”—Charlie Jane Anders, nationally bestselling author of The City in the Middle of the Night
“Darkly brilliant and captivating . . . Readers who love old houses and family secrets will devour this book (as I did!). The setting itself—High Place, with its reputation for swallowing the dreams of young women—is a character in this marvelously fantastical novel, stretching from glamorous 1950s Mexican high society to the crumbling pride of an abandoned silver mine. Silvia Moreno-Garcia enthralls with this twisty tale of love and betrayal.”—Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger and The Ghost Bride
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The important thing to know about this book is that, though it is a horror novel, the horror elements are fairly understated through most of the book. It's very much a slow-burn story, allowing the reader time to gradually get to know the characters and the setting before delivering its climax. On many levels, this is effective, though I do think the pacing is a little bit off. I don't mind a slow burn of a story, but after an intriguing opening, the middle section seems to drag on a bit longer than it ought, offering tidbits of information about the horrific mystery at the novel's heart in small doses and in a way that doesn't particularly add to the story's tension. Once the stakes have been established fairly early, these revelations do enrich the reader's understanding, bit by bit, of what's really going on, but they don't seem to raise the stakes much, making the novel's middle section a bit of a slog.
The slow-burn character of the novel does finally reverse itself in the final third or so of the book, when a final set of revelations come in rapid succession, building to a true climax. In fact, these climactic revelations seem to come a bit too rapidly, once again short-changing dramatic tension in favor of bringing the plot closer to its conclusion. The novel's pacing would have been better had the revelations built more gradually to a crescendo.
Issues with pacing aside, I found it overall to be an enjoyable read. The reader will have no trouble liking or disliking the characters according to how the author means them to be viewed. While some characters are better-developed than others, they do provide an interesting ensemble. The writing style occasionally veers toward the wordy or "flowery," but always stops just short of the point at which it becomes too much so, giving the book a haunting, almost meditative sort of characteristic.
Endings in horror are often difficult to get right, because once one knows what the evil (or the "big bad") actually is, it immediately loses much of its power to terrify. Admittedly, the revelation of this novel's big bad strains the limits of the willing suspension of disbelief a bit, but it nevertheless leads to an ending that's more satisfying than those of most horror novels.
It's far from a perfect book, but it's well worth a read.
"Lessons every day since I was six," she said, switching from Spanish to English. "I'm sure I'll have no trouble."
That quote from a very early part in the text stuck with me because until that point, I had been incorrectly assuming that the characters were communicating in English. And it's those kids of assumptions, the nature of colonialism, eugenics, and a haunting mystery that drive the book forward. This brilliant author has no trouble weaving culture and texture into a gothic horror story.
For anyone who reads this and finds themselves wanting the book to be "more Mexican" I would ask you to stop and question what that means to you. What doesn't feel Mexican enough in this story? From my perspective, the characters, setting, dialogue, food, and music all feel very authentic to the time and place. The absence of Mexican culture at High Place is very deliberate and explored as part of the themes.
I do not usually read horror, but I was immersed in the chilling and claustrophobic atmosphere of High Place. I agree with other reviews that describe the beginning as a slow burn and I found that to be necessary for the gradual descent into darkness and chaos that arrives near the end.
I already know that when I get my copy in the mail, I'm probably going to re-read it because this was a crazy adventure.
The first chapter might be a little slow to you, but seriously give it a few chapters and you'll be sucked in to this weird house and all the weird events going on inside. Everyone is creepy and it basically feels like everyone is constantly balancing between betrayal and death every chapter. The last 30% was some of the most tense moments I have ever read and now I'm kinda scared my dreams will be haunted by *insert the antagonist here*. Also there is a very common thing that is a recurring element and I'm paranoid about it now. So this is DEF a creepy book.