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MEXICAN GOTHIC BY SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA
An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic artistocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets…
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
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I received an electronic copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
As a fan of horror movies, I’m surprised I don’t read much of the horror genre. Perhaps my lack of exploration into this genre could be the culprit rather than a lack of interest. When I picked up Mexican Gothic, it was not because it was horror. Silly me. I brushed aside the horror thinking no way could this scare me. I honestly thought I had the plot figured out when I read the blurb but because I was very much interested in exploring Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s works, I picked this up!
Upon first hearing of the book, I likened it to the gothic horror movie, Crimson Peak, and the book, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Mexican Gothic does contain elements of both works but is more queasy than I had anticipated.
Thinking this book was gonna be a breeze, I settled down to read it. To say this book elicits a sense of dread into its readers would be quite an understatement. But where to begin?
Noemi, our young socialite from Mexico, travels to the old town of El Triunfo after receiving a distressing letter from her cousin, Catalina. Catalina was newly married to Virgil Doyle and now resided at a decaying old mansion called High House because of its location on top of a forest mountain. The letter Noemi receives alludes that her cousin might be being abused and is deteriorating mentally. At her father’s insistence, Noemi sets out to see her cousin and hopefully, take her away.
But nothing prepares Noemi for High House or its residence. Despite its decay, the house still stands with its mouldy interiors and lack of electricity. The servants of the house are as quiet as mice. The matriarch, Helen, is stone-cold and looks down at Noemi. Her son, Francis, is much like a hermit but is the only one who is kind to Noemi. Virgil Doyle is a cold man while the patriarch is leery. Noemi is shocked at the conditions of her cousin’s residence but more than that, the atmosphere around High House is disturbing. Noemi cannot bear to see her once cheerful and radiant cousin dwindle away.
I love Noemi’s character! Her flighty nature reminded me much of myself, if I dare say. I enjoyed how the author wrote her to be a woman of grace and wit. Noemi loved fashion and partying but she also had a love for history and took no bullshit from anyone. She’s the kind of woman I would fall in love with and aspire to be. She was a woman of strong mind and for her to live in High House, it was utterly stifling. High House is a claustrophobic place with its rules on having to always be silent, getting permission for everything, and not to mention, the family’s obsession with eugenics.
The Doyle family members were disturbing. Every encounter with them made me so uncomfortable, especially, Virgil and his father. They were condescending, narcissistic, and very cunning. The men who hold power and no mercy; who are always hungry for more. I bet each of us knows men like that. They are just so ordinary and yet the damage they do can last generations.
Throughout the book, I kept urging Noemi to just get out of the there but I knew that if I had been in Noemi’s situation, leaving would have been the worst I could do.
The tension builds every so slowly in this book. The character of High House creeps into existence; filling every word with dread until reality and illusions begin to blend in. The atmosphere of the old house, the botanical tomes and overgrowing flora, the blankets of mist, and the nameless portraits are more than just surface level creepy. Each of these is no mere motif but a story that the house itself is trying to convey. The uncomfortably of the house was so much so that even I began to doubt whether Noemi’s reactions were normal. Or if maybe, she was reading in too deeply. The book toed the line between a sort of murder mystery and the unreliable narrator and I’ll admit that I, at some point, began to think maybe there was nothing there at all!
But then the last quarter of the book came together so perfectly! It was disgusting and yet so plausible. When I reached the climax of the book, I had to take a breather. I was not entirely blindsided because I should have been able to figure it out but just like Noemi, I was so focused on the house and its inhabitants that my own fears twisted themselves into their own tale. I loved how this book was able to do that to me!
🌺 Please, please, please recommend me some horror reads!
🌺 Would you choose a haunting of plants or animals?