Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020)

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a gothic horror novel set in Mexico in the 1950s. The story follows Noemí Taboada, a glamorous and headstrong socialite, who is asked by her father to visit her newlywed cousin, Catalina, at the remote and decaying High Place estate in the Mexican countryside.

Noemí’s father has received a letter from Catalina, who claims that her husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her. Noemí travels to High Place to investigate, but upon arrival, she finds the house and its inhabitants to be sinister and unwelcoming. She begins to experience strange visions and nightmares, and starts to suspect that the family is hiding something sinister.

As Noemí delves deeper into the history of High Place and the Doyle family, she discovers a dark legacy of colonialism, eugenics, and experimentation. She uncovers the family’s terrible secrets and faces a terrifying and deadly struggle to save herself and her cousin.

Throughout the novel, Moreno-Garcia explores themes of power, oppression, and resistance, as well as the intersection of race, class, and gender. The book has been praised for its vivid and atmospheric writing, its exploration of Mexican folklore and culture, and its subversion of gothic horror tropes.

Mexican Folklore

One of the key elements of Mexican folklore in the novel is the idea of “la llorona”, a mythological figure who is said to roam the countryside wailing for her lost children. This figure is referenced several times in the book, particularly in relation to the character of Catalina, who is described as having “the eyes of la llorona”.

Another important aspect of Mexican folklore in the book is the use of herbs and natural remedies. Noemí, the protagonist of the novel, is well-versed in the use of herbs and natural remedies, which she learned from her grandmother. This knowledge proves to be important as she tries to uncover the secrets of the Doyle family and save herself and her cousin.

Moreno-Garcia also incorporates elements of Mexican history and culture into the novel. The Doyle family is descended from English colonizers who made their fortune from mining operations in Mexico. The family’s power and wealth are built on the exploitation of Mexican workers, and the novel explores the legacy of colonialism and oppression in Mexico.

Mexican Gothic offers a unique and fascinating exploration of Mexican folklore and culture, which adds depth and richness to the novel’s gothic horror atmosphere.

Horror Tropes

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a gothic horror novel that draws on several classic gothic tropes, while also subverting and reimagining them in unique and interesting ways.

One of the most prominent gothic tropes in the novel is the use of a decaying and creepy old mansion, in this case, the High Place estate, which is remote and isolated from civilization. The house is dark, damp, and filled with secrets and ghosts of the past, adding to the sense of unease and horror.

Another common gothic trope in the book is the use of the supernatural, including ghosts and visions. Noemí, the protagonist, experiences several haunting visions, which add to the eerie atmosphere of the novel. These visions are often related to the family’s dark past and secrets.

The novel also employs the gothic trope of madness, as several characters in the book are driven to madness or have a history of mental illness. This theme is explored through the character of Catalina, who appears to be suffering from some form of mental illness, and the rest of the family who are grappling with the after-effects of eugenics experiments.

The novel also explores the idea of patriarchy, as the male members of the Doyle family hold all the power and control over the female characters, including Noemí. This theme is highlighted through the character of Florence, the matriarch of the family, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage and forced to endure her husband’s abuse.

Mexican Gothic uses classic gothic tropes to create an eerie and suspenseful atmosphere, while also offering a fresh and unique take on the genre.

Mexican Gothic is a rich and dark mystery that was one of my favorite books of 2020. I highly recommend it and you can get a copy from Amazon here.


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