Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Hole. E. Fuck.
I AM SHOOKETH.
I AM SHAKETH.
I AM VERKLEMPT.
Okay, so the premise: a young socialite goes to a town in the mountains of Baja California to figure out what the hell is going on with her cousin, who married this white dude and then sent a letter saying that she was being poisoned and that the walls were talking to her. So the socialite arrives and weird shit starts happening, but nothing that’s too weird, just kinda creepy. So she stays to investigate, and shit gets really weird.
That was the two-cent summary, because the rest of the novel is holy fucking shit shit shit.
It starts off nice and quaint, with bored socialite Noemí looking to find herself and quite enjoying life as a very smart, flirtatious girl in 1950s Mexico City. When her father summons her to figure out what’s going on with her close cousin Catalina, Noemí readily agrees and ventures forth to the countryside.
At High Place, she discovers an isolated world steeped in outdated traditions and heavy racism, as the people there hold firm to their English roots and Victorian beliefs. Noemí struggles to adjust to these people and their microaggressions and flat out racism, while trying to figure out what the hell is going on with her cousin, who absolutely doesn’t have tuberculosis, but something else is going on.
Noemí is not afraid of her cousin’s handsome new husband or his incredibly rigid aunt, but there’s something unsettling and creepy about the ancient patriarch of the Doyle family. While she finds solace with the young and gentle Frances, there’s just something off about the entire situation.
From here, the story begins a steady and slow decline towards horror, as High Place begins to reveal the secrets oozing behind its faded and unraveling Victorian wallpaper, and Noemí finds herself trapped.
She recalled, rather grimly, that certain fairy tales end in blood.
While slow and character-driven until the incredibly scary and holy-shitballs climax, the star of the story is the gothic atmosphere of High Place.
The foggy, dense and Victorian moldiness is so out of place, and encompasses so much of the exploitative history of white people within Mexico. And how that history—and the previous overlords—struggle to survive in a new world of (semi) equality once their means of production and fortune have run dry. The Doyles literally exploited the land in the same way they exploited the people, killing both with impunity and surviving by parasitically leaching away the life force of everything they touched—while struggling to maintain their own purity (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit).
Anywho, back to the atmosphere. This book reminds me so much of the gothic literature of the late 19th century, particularly Wuthering Heights, which its grandly dilapidated house and struggling elite grandly sinking into oblivion while scrambling to maintain their foothold in society by isolating themselves from their lessers. Also, the foggy moors, the wetness and damp, the mold, the…mushrooms.
I don’t want to say much more about the book without spoiling it, but this reminds me in many ways of the racial criticism of Get Out combined with the gothic atmosphere of Wuthering Heights, all set in 1950s Mexico with a dash of supernatural ickiness.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Mexican Gothic released from Del Ray on June 30th, 2020.