Or: How a Book Made Me Afraid of Mushrooms and Want a Parrot
Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Horror, Gothic Horror
Page Count: 301
Buy: Redux Society
Rating: Four outta Five
Content Warnings: Sexual assault, violence, suicide, gaslighting, discussions revolving around colonialism, race, and genetics.
*This is a spoiler-free review! Enjoy!*
"'The walls speak to me. They tell me secrets. Don't listen to them, press your hands against your ears, Noemi. There are ghosts. They're real. You'll see them eventually.'"
This one's a haunted house story that makes you constantly ask "Is this a 'put my wife in the attic and marry her cousin' kinda novel or a 'there's a woman in the wallpaper and hearts under the floorboards' kinda novel?"; meets the part of Alice in Wonderland where she eats the mushroom (or maybe just the feeling you get when *you* watch Alice in Wonderland while *on* mushrooms); meets the 1980 John Carpenter classic The Fog with a dash of Lovecraft; meets borrowed comfy sweaters and a 1950s wardrobe you wish you could see more of without the Betty Crocker and Sandra Dee patriarchal expectations as accessories; meets probably getting outside of your comfort zone and looking up Mexican phrases and culture you aren't familiar with so you can try to enjoy the intersectionality that this narrative has to offer.
Oh, and there's a parrot.
And a slow burn romance, if you're into that.
I think there was a three year period of my life where I constantly felt like a woman in a gothic novel - wandering rainy windswept moors in a nightgown and wailing dramatically - and I'm 100% certain there's a handful of people who think I've never left that period of my life. Regardless, I've had this book on my list since it was published because I'm a HUGE fan of gothic literature. But even more importantly, I'm a HUGE HUGE fan of literature that offers something new to a genre, which this one certainly does.
"'We thought monsters and ghosts were found in books, but they're real, you know?'"
This book is hit-you-in-the-head-with-a-shovel obvious about its presentation of gothic literature tropes. It's not hiding anything regarding that. For those of you who enjoyed the movie Cabin In the Woods, you’ll enjoy this novel - a creative work that simultaneously uses and questions tropes while becoming the trope itself and doing it well.
But then the author oh so smartly folds in important messages about the cultural conditions and structures we create, uphold, and sometimes force on people - intentionally and, even scarier, when we have no idea that we're doing it. It takes the gothic novel and throws it into the Mexican countryside and screams "What's going to happen now?!" And you may be surprised by the answer.
The only disappointment this book had to offer was its lack of descriptors for its Mexican setting. The English manor is described hauntingly, and most certainly fits the gothic theme the author is seemingly trying to play with. However, it would have been excellent to have had even more Mexican cultural representation to provide a parallel and foil to the misplaced English house. I don’t mind looking up and researching Mexican culture to enhance my reading, but I’ve got to have something to look up and read about!
"'Do you want coffee? It's no good telling tales without a drink.'"
This is a quick read - it's short and paced beautifully. But BEWARE - you're in for a scare...ones that might make you put the book down for a breather. Seriously, we've got a lot of triggers in this one, including sexual assault, violence, suicide, and gaslighting, on top of disturbing discussions revolving around colonialism, race, and genetics. Oof.
Remember: A haunted house story is never *really* about a haunted house. And with this one, you'll sport your "that's suspicious" face from page one.
I give this book four out of five borrowed sweaters.
Have you read something today? You should.
Until our next story,