Book Review: Mexican Gothic
“The world might indeed be a cursed circle; the snake swallowed its tail and there could be no end, only an eternal ruination and endless devouring.”
This is certainly a book I would judge and then buy just based on the cover (it’s gorgeous) and the name, but in this case I also had numerous raving reviews from people I trust, making this an easy choice for my July Book of the Month pick. Does it live up to all the hype it’s getting? For the most part, yes!
SUMMARY: After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed 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. 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.
The mood hangs heavy over the house at High Place, creating a sinister and unnerving atmosphere that fits perfectly in the gothic genre. The thick fog, the overgrown cemetery, the ancient underground caves, the massive house that stays in almost total darkness – all work together to create a very foreboding setting for our young protagonist. The prose is excellent, lush with detail and vivid in its imagery. One can almost feel the rot and smell the miasma, so pervasively prevalent and perfectly described.
Noemí is such a fantastic character! She’s immediately likeable, with her gaiety, quick wit, and fierce sense of determination. But she’s also a realistic character, prone to a quick temper and vulnerable to fear. She truly carries the story along, through the tense moments but also through the parts that are plodding or perplexing in their ambiguity. She also manages to hold her own against forces that would seek to harm her, from the racism and violence of the other characters to the demonic forces hiding within the walls.
This is definitely what one would call a slow burn, but it also serves the story well. The first third of the book sets up the characters and inciting incident. The second third builds the tension with mounting dread and bursts of nightmares. And finally the last third veers into outright horror, laying bare the grotesque motives and hideous backstory of our antagonists. I don’t fully understand everything that happened in that final act, but I know it was visceral, mind-bending, and utterly memorable.
I’m a big fan of gothic stories, and I loved all the traces of Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, and, perhaps most heavily, Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Overall this is an incredible book, and takes a place among other favorite reads for the year!
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 💫