The Real Horror is the Racism We Fought Along The Way. A Review of Mexican Gothic


Mexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Horror/Speculative

QUILTBAG Main Character: No 

QUILTBAG Minor Character: No

Main Character Of Color: Yes

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Noemí is a socialite in 1950’s Mexico City. She likes driving fast with the top down, she likes parties, she likes music, and she wants to be allowed to continue her education. When a distressing letter arrives from her newly married cousin, Noemí’s father agrees to let her get the education she’s been wanting if she can get this mess settled before the society pages find out. Noemí expects to find a cousin in need of mental health care. What she finds is a house full of secrets, a family with a dark history, and a darkness that threatens to consume them all. Noemí will have to rely on herself because no one and nothing at High Place can be trusted.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

Like so many other readers, I have been waiting to sink myself into this book for a long time. It was basically written just for me, or at least it sure feels like it was. See, up until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have considered myself a horror fan. As I’ve learned of late, I was just reading/watching the wrong kind of horror. I’ve become obsessed with well-written and interesting horror. For horror to work for me, it has to punch-up. Like most speculative fiction, horror uses the uncanny and the strange to shine light on the darkest parts of our real world. Or at least good horror does. Mexican Gothic, in terms of punching-up, is an absolute slugfest.

Noemí faces horrors in High Place long before the first strange vision or haunting dream. Her first exploration of the house reveals shelves of books on eugenics. It becomes increasingly clear that her cousin’s family, who moved to High Place from the UK in order to take advantage of a silver mine in the hills, have some aggressive notions on who is and who is not the “right kind” of people. 

Over the course of the novel, Moreno-Garcia speaks on themes of racism, colonialism, classism, sexism, and toxic masculinity. Noemí, although herself rich, is horrified to discover the way the residents of High Place expect their serving staff to be almost completely silent. The family is so self-isolated, so sure of their own self-importance, that they have allowed the house to rot rather than abandon their perceived right over the land.

It is this unearned yet deeply held belief that the land is theirs, that they have more of a claim to it than anyone who lived there before, that lays the groundwork for the horror within the house and within the family who takes up space there. Noemí pushes back against the walls and wills inside the house, awakening sleeping horrors. Watching her struggle to fight against the forces who would harm her and those around her is thrilling. Moreno-Garcia gives readers such a terrifying face of evil that I found myself holding my breath, waiting for the next move, the next chapter, the next monster to come around the corner.

The balancing act of social commentary and horror is performed perfectly within the pages of Mexican Gothic. Moreno-Garcia tells a heart-racing tale that is all the more horrific because it feels so close to our world. It is as if the imagined ghosts press against the thin pages of the book, just skimming the surface, ready to break free and terrorize us all. It makes for an incredible read that will keep you up for days after you’ve finished reading it.

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Mexican Gothic? Leave a comment recommending your favorite horror movie. Mine is probably Get Out. You can also find me on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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