‘Mexican Gothic’ brings back gothic horror with finesse

By Brandee Miller | Special to the Katy Times
Posted 1/24/21

The latest novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, “Mexican Gothic” was one of the hottest reads of 2020 as soon as it hit the shelves in late June. Featuring mostly gothic elements and some …

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‘Mexican Gothic’ brings back gothic horror with finesse

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The latest novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, “Mexican Gothic” was one of the hottest reads of 2020 as soon as it hit the shelves in late June. Featuring mostly gothic elements and some tendencies of horror and mystery, it's not a light read or necessarily a novel for everyone. The main issue readers cite is that the novel contains either too few or too many horror elements depending on the reader’s preference. The slow and descriptive pace of the first half takes a while to build up the mysteries surrounding the English mansion called High Place, while the faster-paced second half delivers most of the horror elements.

“Mexican Gothic” is set in 1950s Mexico and follows the socialite protagonist, Noemí, as she travels at her father’s behest from Mexico City to the small city of El Triunfo to visit her cousin Catalina.

Noemí, used to the finer life and traveling with luggage full of fancy dresses, arrives at High Place to find a mansion full of quiet dinners, darkness and mystery and moldy walls covered in mushrooms. In spite of the cultural shock Noemí faces once she arrives; she adjusts and works toward reconciling the causes of the differences between the vivacious cousin who told her fantasy stories as a young girl with the withdrawn and seemingly drugged Catalina of present time.

Noemí’s only friend at the desolate High Place is the youngest son of the strange Doyle family, Francis. He acts as escort, historian of the town and High Place and confidant to Noemí. Catalina herself is of little help to Noemí and becomes more withdrawn the longer Noemí lingers at the dreary English mansion.

High Place serves as the mysterious and gothic background that lends itself to the atrocities that happen throughout the decades to the townspeople of El Triunfo at the hands of the Doyles. The longer Noemí stays at High Place, the more observant she is of the mansion’s mold that seemingly moves along the walls and the somberness of the different family members as they carry on with their dreary daily lives. High Place becomes a character in its own right throughout the novel.

While “Mexican Gothic” has the damsel in distress of many gothic works, the damsel’s unlikely rescuer is the strong and self-assured Noemí. Moreno-Garcia offers the reader an inquisitive heroine who finds she is adept at uncovering the Doyle family mysteries. The oft ill-fated romance that appears in many gothic novels occurs between Catalina and her husband. As readers, we are mere observers of the tumultuous path from the promising beginning of their love story to the inauspicious culmination.

On the Goodreads page for this novel, Moreno-Garcia has added a few materials to enhance the reading experience. She has included a Spotify playlist inspired by the novel at:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/233O4CcNUXQIJjqcHlsHqj?si=RUkAIcDjTiuK3JXHO2CfjA#=

Readers can also find a book club kit that includes a discussion of gothic literature throughout the centuries and paper doll cutout of Noemi with changeable outfits at:

http://www.randomhousebooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Mexican-Gothic-book-club-kit.pdf

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