HELLO AND WELCOME TO MY STOP FOR THE MEXICAN GOTHIC BLOG TOUR!
First of all I wanted to thank Jo Fletcher books and Quercus books for the opportunity of being part of this tour! Thank you, NetGalley, for the free copy in exchange of an honest review.
TW: murder, death, rape, attempted rape, cannibalism, incest
Noemì Taboada is a socialite and she’s living a golden life in Mexico City with parties, friends, flirts and her studies, even though she changed again her mind, taking an interest in anthropology this time. When she received a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin, Catalina, begging for help and accusing her husband of poisoning her, Noemì understands that something may be wrong and right away decides to visit her.
In the High Place, a remote and lugubrious mansion in the Mexican countryside, Noemì, with her clothes and mirth and curiosity clashes with the mansion’s residents and their rules, like being silent during dinner, quiet voices, no questions and no cigarettes.
But Noemì is determined to find why her cousin is so strange and what is affecting her, even if that means clashing with Virgil, Catalina’s husband, both alluring and scary, Florence, who runs the house with strict firmess and the patriarch Howard, who seems to be fascinated by her.
Her only ally is Francis, the youngest, shy and kind and, when Noemì starts to be plagued by nightmares and visions. she decides to uncover the family’s history and what is happening to them. Before she’s trapped in the house forever.
Mexican gothic is a wonderful feminist Gothic fantasy, set in a gloomy mansion with its mysteries, violence and ghosts.
The main character is Noemì, who finds herself in a situation and a world very different from the one she’s used to. A world of silence, lies and violence. But she’s strong-willed, brilliant and smart and she’s strongly connected to her older cousin, Catalina.
Finding herself in a male dominated world, High Place, a whole different universe and the Doyles, or better Howard, their patriarch, as ruler and master, able to impose his demand everywhere, Noemì struggles against rules and mysteries, unwilling to bow down and determined to save herself and Catalina from what is become a prison, the house itself alive and unwilling to let them go.
In Mexican Gothic there is a battle between men and women, who struggle to get their independence and freedom in 1950s Mexico. Noemì struggles against her parents’ expectations, her mother thinking that girls should follow a life cycle, from debutante to wife and not to continue her studies upon graduation, her father considering flighty and offering her the chance to enroll to the National University should she save her cousin and solve her mystery.
It’s interesting reading how, even though women didn’t have much freedom, above all when married, (Catalina’s fate was decided by her husband, his doctor and her father in law) undermined by the patriarchy, the women in Mexican Gothic are strong, stubborn and willing to assert themselves, with their choices, plans and plottings. From Agnes and Ruth, who fought against their family’s values and traditions, to Catalina and Noemì, these women were ready to plot, kill, escape to get their freedom back and to do the right things.
It’s also a war between rich and poor, the socioeconomics difference, considering the way the Doyles treated their miner, above all if Mexicans, and their willingness to let them suffer and die for their own goals.
In a constant cycle of violence, mystery and blood, Noemì fights her way to be free and to save those she loves and has learn to love.
One of the things I loved the most about Mexican Gothic is the setting, reminding me of Wuthering Heights and other Gothic novels, with its fog, gloomy places, quiet servants and nightmares, creepy mysteries. with a tough and strong-willed heroine.
Peculiar is the house itself, almost a character on its own, with its actions and desires, a cage, a prison and a living organism at the same time.
Interesting is the character of Francis, the youngest son who is willing to defy his family and their traditions, wanting to do the right thing, ready to see the world and to escape a house who is really a prison, its inhabitants prisoners (willing and unwilling) and stuck in a cycle of violence and blood.
Catalina first and Noemì then disrupt their “peace” and cycle, refusing to be used and objectified by the men of the house. The women seen and used as object, only as mothers and wives is another concept Noemì struggles against. Catalina is first bewitched by Virgil and his house and family, but slowly, in her own way, she fighs against a role others want to impose on her, a cage ready to smother her.
Noemì, with her mirth, her flirting and stubborness, is a modern woman, unwilling to be something she doesn’t want to be, a woman with strong convictions and ideas, refusing to be caged and hurt. Florence, Francis’ mother, almost represents a woman who gave up, assimilated into the house and its rules, willing to hurt other women and to obey her master, becoming from victim to oppressor. Noemì, Catalina, Ruth are women able to stand up for themselves, ready to do anything for the right thing and the people they love and loved. Brilliant, vibrant and complex character, they stick out in this book. defeating the men’s cruelties, protecting themselves.
Even though there are male characters who help them, like Francis, Noemì’s father and Dr Camarillo, Mexican Gothic is a book where women triumph and they are not willing to share the spotlight. Fighting the objectification of women, asserting their right to decide and be free, Mexican Gothic has strong characters, a complex mystery and a wonderful, but gloomy, setting.
I recommend this book to those who love a good mystery, strong female characters, fight against the patriarchy and the ability of proving oneself.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. (from Goodreads)