After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed 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. Mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, Noemí may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
Moreno-Garcia isn’t just rattling off genre signifiers. The author’s postcolonial spin on the gothic tradition evokes the usual suspects: Daphne du Maurier, Emily Brontë, Mary Shelley, even Anne Radcliffe. Like those authors, Moreno-Garcia works in a tradition in which chills and thrills tap into elemental cultural fears — runaway science, carnal passion. But to these she adds a more politically inflected horror, both ancient and timely: A racist will to power ... Moreno-Garcia writes simply in these early pages, her declarative sentences and straightforward descriptions playing against the creeping gloom ... Moreno-Garcia somewhat muddles this history, which is her right as a novelist, adding layers of meaning that highlight the clash between colonial powers and a nation struggling to come into its own ... Sometimes I longed for more about this piece of Mexico’s past, a slightly more direct reckoning with the history. Yet Moreno-Garcia aims not just to edify but to thrill. Readers will cheer as Noemí fights off the nasty Doyles, gasp as they pull her back in ... By the time readers have tiptoed and reeled in Noemí’s well-heeled shoes, the turn from mannered mystery to twisted horror will seem as inevitable as the nightmare logic of a Grimm fairy tale. Yet Mexican Gothic has an ending that turns Western fairy tales upside down. In the process of surprising us one last time, Moreno-Garcia proves that it’s possible to create a believable female protagonist who defies not just the Doyles but the patriarchy of her time — the more polite eugenics of family that didn’t traffic in serpent symbols or dark rites — to fight for what she knows is a more righteous future.
High Place is an ominous presence, and Moreno-Garcia uses its grim atmosphere to great effect ... The descriptions of her hallucinations are hypnotically poetic ... drips with a miasma of dread for these captive women, especially after we learn what this strange family has in store for them. But this is a novel about powerful women ... It’s as if a supernatural power compels us to turn the pages of the gripping Mexican Gothic. The true identity of the Doyles and the fate of these women is an intoxicating mystery that allows us, for a little while, to forget the horror story taking place in the real world during the summer of covid-19.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel ... There is a gradual rise of dread in Mexican Gothic. It never quite falls off, even at the end, which I loved for its satisfying ambiguity; this is a novel that will leave you wary even after the last page. Mexican Gothic touches on racial, class, and labor inequity, the way these things fester, infusing the landscape and blighting generations ... This is Silvia Moreno-Garcia's greatness as a storyteller: She makes you uneasy about invisible things by writing around them ... Mexican Gothic is a pitch-perfect Gothic novel.