Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Book Details
TITLE – Mexican Gothic
AUTHOR – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
YEAR PUBLISHED – 2020
PAGE COUNT – 320
MY RATING – 3.5 of 5
RATED ON GOODREADS – 3.68 of 5
What It Is About
Driven to madness, driven to anger, driven to despair, and even now a sliver of that woman remained, and that sliver was still screaming in agony. She was the snake biting its tail.
Noemí is a young woman from Mexico City whose cousin, Catalina, has recently married a mysterious man no one knows much about. Everything seems to be going well for a while, but then Noemí receives a message from Catalina that is more than a little disturbing.
In the letter, Catalina doesn’t seem like herself. She is unwell and clearly terrified, saying weird things are happening around her new family’s mansion.
“I see them sometimes, the people in the walls. They’re dead.”
Noemí decides to travel and check on Catalina. But once there, she doesn’t know what to make of the situation, as everyone claims Catalina is just recovering from tuberculosis, and Catalina herself seems very unreliable.
Noemí decides to stay until she figures out what’s going on and whether her cousin needs psychiatric help. However, soon disturbing things start happening around the house, and Noemí finds herself trapped with people she doesn’t trust in a place where it is hard to distinguish nightmares from reality.
*TRIGGER WARNINGS for Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
About to pick up Mexican Gothic…
This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment. I have tried to hold on to my wits, to keep this foulness away but I cannot and I find myself losing track of time and thoughts. Please. Please. They are cruel and unkind and they will not let me go.
I am a bit of a seasonal reader, but mostly in the sense that my reading mood changes depending on the season we’re in. In my world, science fiction and horror books are made for summer. I decided to start with horror and picked up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Now, I usually prefer Stephen King type of horror for summer, while gothic, moody, spooky books I connect more with fall. But this book was on my TBR for so long, and everyone seems to have read it, and they are still talking about it just as much as when it first came out. And I got tired of not knowing what they are talking about.
Mexican Gothic was Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Best Horror in 2020. And according to that, I have my expectations. Hope it is going to be creepy, and unnerving, and unsettling. I want something to get under my skin and truly creep me out. I’d also appreciate it being dramatic, vibrant and intense.
Although, I am trying to keep my expectations in check because people often compare Mexican Gothic with Rebecca, and that one was a bit of a disappointment for me.
My Thoughts As I’m Reading Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
20% into the book:
The house was dreary, and so was everyone in it. She could believe a woman could sicken quickly in a place like this.
I know I just started it, but so far there’s nothing for me to like about this book. No drama. No intensity. It is clear that something is happening, but there’s no excitement. Just a weird manor that kind of sounds creepy but also it’s so easy not to care.
And I don’t like the characters. They sure are weird but not in a good way. Just a bunch of people acting inconsistently, being rude for the sake of being rude and not even being good at it.
I did like the letter Noemí’s cousin sent. That was quite unsettling actually.
40% into the book:
But she didn’t say a thing, because it wasn’t really that bad of a comment, a few words, and she didn’t wish to start a fight in the middle of a dark hallway over what amounted to almost, but not quite, nothing.
It did get better. Not dramatically, but enough to get me intrigued. Things are still not where I’d like them to be, but you start to see how the house could slowly start making anyone… nervous.
We got the first glimpses at the possible paranormal element of the story, though it is still very unclear if there is anything supernatural involved at all. This story could go in so many different directions. It’s still not too spooky, it’s kind of moody, but there were some nice gothic elements I appreciated.
At this point I understand both why some people loved this book and why some people hated it. Wonder where I will fall in the end.
70% into the book:
Noemí had definitely not yelled. There had been noise, but that was the noise from the bees. Of course there were no bees, but that didn’t mean she had yelled. She would damn well remember if she yelled.
This got so weird! And gross! But not as scary as I hoped! But weirdly captivating in the most disgusting way!
The book was slow and boring in the beginning, but it finally got me to wonder what’s going on. At some point it gets under your skin and you start to relate to the protagonist as she’s going through that unnerving feeling like she can’t trust her own senses anymore.
I’m at the point where we start to get some answers, but most of it is nonsensical. So many ways the story could go down!
I really liked one of the characters but I’m not sure I like him anymore. Shame, my heart used to melt every time he was around. The majority of my enjoyment hung on him.
At least there’s an opportunity for redemption, and if there’s something I love in my books, it’s redemption arcs.
There’s also this obnoxious, unbelievable asshole of a character. If he dies a painful death soon, I’ll raise my rating of this book for a star.
“He can always hurt us. He never stops hurting us. He will never stop. […] Never, ever, never. I’ve seen you. I think I know you.”
An appropriate conclusion to this story. Not mind-blowing, not the best thing I ever read. But enough to make me feel I wasn’t just wasting my time with this book. I liked it.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – My Final Thoughts And Review
Her fingers touched the drape, and the buzzing became the beating of a thousand frenetic insects against glass, the sound of a swarm caught inside her head, so strong she could almost feel it like a vibration cutting through the air, and she lifted her head. Don’t look.
I gave Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 3.5 stars. It was overall a good book, but it left certain things to be desired.
My biggest complaint was that it took me a long time to connect with Noemí and by extension to start caring about the story. She was very passive in the beginning, not at all what I’d expect from her in that position. For the longest time, people were just ordering her around and feeding her small chunks of their versions of the story. What little she did rebel felt weak, like she didn’t really put in all she had.
The thing is, at the very beginning, Noemí leaves the impression of a strong-willed young woman who is used to getting things her way when she puts her mind to something. But then she goes to this weird place to visit a cousin she cares about a lot, and it is clear Catalina needs help.
Yet, everyone is setting a bunch of stupid rules, trying to control Noemi’s every step. And they keep preventing her from seeing Catalina, saying she can’t see her now because Catalina is sleeping, or she just took her medication, she needs rest… And Noemí just goes with it, even though many much softer-built people would leash out at some point, and with a good reason.
I also wish Mexican Gothic was even scarier. I know jumpscares are not all that typical for gothic horrors, but I’d really appreciate some more excitement. In Mexican Gothic, a lot of things that happened were just horrible and should have been super scary. But somehow they felt taken too far to feel even mildly realistic. Too much, too weird, too grotesque, too into your face, to the point where it stops being terrifying.
Where this book thrives is its ability to immerse the reader and present how the whole situation would actually be unnerving. Even when not much was going on. Just the depictions of someone whose hands were tied while going through the unsettling unknown. Anyone in her place might want to crawl out of their own skin at some point. When you can trust no one around you. When after a while you realize you can trust even yourself anymore.
The horror parts were gross rather than spooky, which I’m not necessarily a fan of. But the atmosphere Garcia built in this book stayed with me long after I finished it.
If an atmospheric, slow-building, unnerving horror set in a creepy mansion, with lots of gothic details and characters who act weird and are obviously up to something sounds good to you, definitely make sure to pick Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. Even though I had mixed feelings about it, I already started checking out what next book by this author I might pick up. And that’s how you know a book was a success in my world.