Review: Mexican Gothic is a Stylish, Anticolonialist Homage to Classic Horror

Summary

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Setting: Hidalgo, Mexico, 1950
Genre: Gothic Horror
Published: June 30th 2020 by Del Rey
Summary: Mexican Gothic is a horror story lent elegance and panache by its heroine, socialite Noemí Taboada. In exchange for a promise to attend university, Noemí agrees to check up on her cousin, recently married under mysterious circumstances. As Noemí discovers, the Doyle family and their High Place residence live up to the lurid promise of the Gothic horror genre.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review

My sky-high anticipation for Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic was borne of a number of factors—the genre, the period, that cover, this author. I really enjoyed Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things (2016) and The Beautiful Ones (2017), so to see that she’d taken on a preternatural Rebecca (1938) was a real treat. So it came as no surprise to me that I devoured this book in essentially one sitting.

It was one hell of a ride. Get your tickets now.

What makes this an outstanding-four-star rather than perfect-five-star read has to do with some conventions of the genre that, through no fault of the author’s, have become a bit stale for me. The “Gothic” elements were so strong that the “Mexican” elements fell away rather quickly. The metaphorical and explicit condemnations of colonialism are strong, but we spend so much time with Noemí trying to understand the Doyles, I found myself more interested in the glimpses of the residents of the town. The author based the location after a British mining town nicknamed “Little Cornwall,” so no doubt the total Englishification was very much intentional. 

Moreno-Garcia is an excellent visual writer with a real talent for zipping the reader along with the story. The horror elements are memorably rendered while paying homage to the classics. The gorier elements that happen in secret, in the dark, are incredibly disturbing, but, in many ways, no more so than the very “genteel” conversations about race happening at the dinner table. That Noemí is not shy about naming the horrors she is put through and acting out against them makes her a compelling and sympathetic horror heroine.

This is definitely a book I’ll be returning to for a second, slower read after I absorb some relevant history and interviews with the author. Be sure to follow the link below to the Goodreads page for Mexican Gothic, where the author answers questions and links to a glorious Spotify playlist, bonus paper dolls, and a book club kit. 

Author: Virginia Vantries

Virginia hearts vintage—historical fiction, feminist fatales, classic film, and critical history. #AmWriting pulp stories and pop essays.

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