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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Wednesday, August 4, 2021


I heard of this book ages ago and bought it on Kindle when it was only 99p. I had basically forgotten about it though, but then I was scrolling through my Kindle and noticed it so brought it up to read. I really wish I'd got to it sooner as I really enjoyed it and thoroughly recommend it. 

The book is set in 1950 in Mexico, but it has all the hallmarks of a Victorian gothic novel set in England - the creepy house, the silent servants, the creepy patrician of the family, and of course, the horror. I loved the setting, though. 

Noemí is twenty two years old in the book and is living in Mexico City with her wealthy parents. She spends her time at cocktail parties with boys and driving her convertible car; she has yet to choose a major at college which seems to be irritating her father. He calls her home from a party to speak to her about her cousin, Catalina.

Catalina lives a long way away, in her husband's family home. Noemí only met her husband, Virgil, once or twice before their wedding, and didn't fully understand what Catalina saw in him. They had had a a whirlwind romance and gone back to his home with Catalina's money. Catalina has sent a confusing letter to Noemí's father, one in which she is rambling and seems almost unhinged. She is supposedly suffering from tuberculosis, but Noemí's father thinks she needs a psychiatrist and wants Noemí to go to the Doyle house, see how Catalina is, and if necessary get medical care for her in Pahuca or even Mexico City. 

Noemí travels to the tiny town where the Doyles live and is met by Francia, Virgil's cousin. The car they travel back in is old. The town is nearly abandoned, and unloved. The Doyle house is huge, and sits on an abandoned silver mine. The family owned the silver mine, but all the miners got sick and died, and it had to close. 

The house itself is in a state of disrepair. Noemí isn't allowed to use too many lights, or too hot water for her bath. At dinner time, she must remain silent as she eats with Francis, his mother Florence, and sometimes Virgil. She is told Catalina is ill and must not be disturbed. She meets the patriarch of the family, Howard, who is very old, and dying, and who smells of death, but who seems to take a shine to Noemí. 

When she does catch up with her cousin, Catalina veers between being lucid and rambling. Noemí is determined to get another opinion, so takes a car into the town one day to visit the doctor there. She also visits the local healer woman to get a tincture that Catalina has asked for. However, she gets in trouble for taking a car without permission and while she gets kindness from Francis, she is treated badly by Virgil and Florence. The servants also refuse to speak to her, but seem to always be in the way when Noemí tries to speak to Catalina by herself.

And then there's Noemí's disturbed sleep. She starts to sleepwalk again, and she dreams of a woman with a golden face coming towards her. She sees things moving in the walls, and finds mushrooms in the cemetery, and can't escape the mist that surrounds the house... 

I loved the book, I thought it was brilliantly realised and was done so well. I'd love to read something else by the author. I loved the beginning, the middle, and the end, and am giving this five out of five. 

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