I will admit that when I first laid eyes upon Mexican Gothic in the horror section, I was unsure whether this story was supposed to be in horror or if another customer placed it there as they browsed through the shop. I say this because gothic novels, as far as I knew, were centered around some romance. As it turns out, in gothic writings, there are two sub-genres, gothic romance and gothic horror. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s book, Mexican Gothic, is a satisfying introduction to the gothic horror genre.
In Mexican Gothic, we meet Neomi Taboada, a young and lovely socialite who is expected to spend her time pursuing leisure activities and finding a husband. Currently, she is a woman of fickle interests and has no intention of finding a husband at the age of twenty-two. When we meet her, she is called away from a costume party to speak with her father. He has received a disturbing message that may scandalize the family.
The story is narrated from a non-character point of view that reveals the thoughts of our protagonist. As a result, readers can develop a relatability to the character. We know the inner turmoil of portrayed expectations from family and society versus our wants of achievement. We see that Neomi has a definite duty to family and investigates the reliability of the claims within the message her father received. However, being true to herself, she goes on the condition that she can gain something of her own.
The other characters themselves are part of the mystery for both protagonist and readers to solve. The message received and how the Doyle family is described are peculiar. It is unknown whether they are land-rich bankrupt sophisticates or beings much more sinister. The head of the family, Howard Doyle, is an infirm, elderly Englishman who spends most of his time in his quarters. It seems to be for his sake that the family silently keep to themselves.
The setting in which the story takes place is fascinating. Gothic literature has specific characteristics such as dark atmospheres and castles. Mexican Gothic creates quite a picture with a more modern castle, a manor, and an unsettling atmosphere. Picture it, the year is 1949, and the place is El Triunfo, Mexico. This place is surrounded by a blanketing forest, deep ravines, and isolated in a mountain region. High up at the top where the mist grows thick, and the air thin is the old, dilapidated Victorian manor known as High Place. We, the readers, are automatically spooked and feel very much alone. There is a palpable awareness of the absence of life. We are primmed with fear, uncertainty, and curiosity for the unknown.
One of the many themes of this story is more implicit than explicit. The town and High Place are teaming with memories and secrets. They haunt it. High Place itself has a long memory passed down and added to with each generation through its bloodline and into those who dwell within its walls. These memories are seen as visions in dreams for the readers to piece together. Mexican Gothic uses this unique theme to give us bits of foreshadowing and tell a fantastic story.
Something that I enjoyed about the story is that we get to see the characters change. Neomi’s journey allows her to question herself and her motives. The antagonist uses their mannerisms as subtle hints of upcoming events as they slowly relinquish their dignity and show their depravity. These changes are illustrated through the characters’ style of speech as well. In the beginning, they are very formal, polite, and as diplomatic as possible. The formalities erode as the story progresses.
I also enjoyed that this story offered a touch of romance. There are moments of lust and love present, but the story itself is not centered around it. Like any gothic novel, there is a damsel in distress; however, the rescuer is not romantically involved.
I would recommend Silvia Moreno- Garcia’s Mexican Gothic story to everyone. It has an extraordinary ability to peek at one’s curiosity with its foreboding mystery. This story isn’t too lengthy or daunting, as other books in the horror genre can be. It is a beautiful example of modern gothic horror. It is just so satisfying to have the experience of reading this book. I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed it.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is available as a physical book, e-book, and audiobook. Readers can find this book on Amazon, Barns, and Nobel, and wherever books are sold. Your local library may have a few copies to lend as well.