Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-García
After reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, I knew Silvia was an author I would keep loving in future books, and Mexican Gothic just settles that even more.
If you are interested, I did a live tweeting thread as I read it with all my opinions, and the memories it brought back as I read.
If you’re feeling lazy and your question is “is this a legit Mexican Gothic novel?” then the answer is ABSOLUTELY! As a Mexican with family from nearby the area that inspired the book and that lived for a third of my life or so near abandoned mining towns, this book struck deep in my memories of Mexico, of my childhood and teenage years and the stories my family would tell. Yes, there aren’t really any tacos, sombreros or anything that screams Mexican to a foreigner, but from a subtle mention of a Zote bar of soap to other elements in the story, it was as Mexican as can be and even better.
This is how you do great own voices representation, and how you write a POC book. You don’t need to go guns blazing stamp in your face that this is indeed about Mexico, you just subtly reveal the depth of Mexico by the small hints, by the story. The gentle hints at a life lived in a country both by someone of Mazatec origin (one of the many native people of Mexico) and by colonist (English) attempting to make money out of cheap labour and taking away our silver, are superb.
Now for the actual story, we start with Noemí having her socialite life disrupted by an odd letter from her cousin and she’s suddenly thrown into this gothic decript house where things are just a bit too odd and she can’t seem to understand fully well what’s going on.
We kow something is dodgy with the Doyle and the way they are treating her cousing and her too, and yet, what is wrong exactly because you can’t just say “they’re dodgy” as grounds for say a divorce or for sending your cousin to a psychiatrist.
If you need to compare to something this is like a wonderfully modern lavish Rebecca but 10 times better, with the horror part of it developing gently around you until suddenly you’re overcome by it and you need to read until the end because how can you not find out what is exactly going on.
Now, for sanity and to warn other readers, one trigger warning I HAVE to give is sexual assault, attempted many times, but the main attempt was quite intense (extremely well written) and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Which it is absolutely meant to. And given the context and the way it was written, it had a powerful effect on me but not as badly as such scenes would have in other books. Other items to consider into your content/trigger warnings: gaslighting, manipulation, colonialims, heavy racism, eugenics.
So now I will take about the racism/eugenics and hard topics part. As I read Mexican Gothic I had moments of anger due to the view the Doyles have on race and the superior vs inferior being (this becomes a major plot point and it is done with a masterful weaving of threads to form a spectacularly spooky rebozo) but I also cheered for the intensity that Noemí mustered and how she had a way of speak her mind. She did not stay quiet. And I loved her for it.
I keep praising Silvia’s writing but you can see she has honed her craft. The writing is that of someone with experience and knowledge, she can weave that tale and have you deeply wrapped in it. And the story can be brutal, it can hurt you deeply and yet, you will love it because it does exactly what it needs to do and even more. It is a credit to her mastery of words that despite how much anger I mustered about the topics in the book, I came out of my reading it satisfied.
All I can say from here is that everyone should read this book. Even if you aren’t into Gothic books, or horror, or Mexico, honestly, you need to read this because it is absolutely a master book worth every word in it.
PS. that mouse in the picture came from Tequisquapan, México. It’s a nice little reminder of my country without it being too in your face.