Del Rey, 2020
The Guardian describes Mexican Gothic as “Lovecraft meets the Brontes in Latin America,” which is rather apt. Moreno-Garcia has written a delectably Gothic, deliciously weird, and appropriately horrifying tale of a young woman tasked with rescuing her cousin, allegedly imprisoned in a dilapidated old mansion, potentially being poisoned by her husband’s family.
It is an homage to all kinds of classic Gothic tropes: the woman trapped in the attic, a creepy house that may or may not be haunted, villainous men who are also romantically alluring, incest, and family secrets, but Moreno-Garcia also throws in a Lovecraftian twist of truly weird cosmic horror. It’s not so much scary as it is incredibly creepy; Moreno-Garcia knows how to slowly heighten tension and build up dread. Her lush and eerie descriptors are buffeted by her elegant writing style, creating a dank, oppressive tone and a claustrophobic atmosphere. There is also something so very visual about Mexican Gothic; Moreno-Garcia’s descriptions are so incredibly vivid. Basically, I would sell my soul to see this adapted into a film!
While I love Gothic horror in theory, one of my issues with it is that it can be plodding and slow; happily, I had no such issues with Mexican Gothic. From the very first page I was hooked by Noemi’s narrative voice, and the story gets moving fast. The book doesn’t overstay its welcome nor does it waste its relatively short page time by meandering; words are certainly not wasted here. The mystery culminates in a gloriously creepy revolution that leaves nothing to the imagination, which I absolutely loved; few horror books wrap up loose ends so neatly, but I appreciate closure very much, so I thought the ending was incredibly satisfying.
In an interview, Moreno-Garcia describes Mexican Gothic as “trashy but classy” and compares it to Flowers in the Attic (though she says it isn’t quite as trashy as that). While I understand her assertion that this isn’t exactly high literature, and that it takes inspiration from trashy Gothic stories, I also think that, thematically, this is quite an achievement! In changing the setting to Mexico and placingwhite people in the position of inscrutable villain/monster rather than the dark-skinned Mexican heroine, Moreno-Garcia subverts traditional Gothic implications of the dark foreigner as Other. This is underscored by the frequent discussions of eugenics in the story, and the heroine’s positionality as a budding anthropologist who scorns her hosts’ eugenicist beliefs.
In short, this book is both brilliant and gratifying, in addition to being delightfully entertaining!