“The house seemed to leap out of the mist to greet them with eager arms. It was so odd! It looked absolutely Victorian in construction, with its broken shingles, elaborate ornamentation, and dirty bay windows. It’s the abandoned shell of a snail, Noemí told herself.” —Mexican Gothic
Have you noticed the recent resurgence of the Gothic vibe? Netflix’s most popular offerings of just this past month have included The Haunting of Bly Manor (based on Henry James’ classic Turn of the Screw), Rebecca (based on Daphne Du Maurier’s masterpiece), while the Bestseller Lists currently include Emily M. Danforth’s tongue-in-cheek throwback book Plain Bad Heroines, as well as the much-lauded Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Mexican Gothic fuses several threads to weave a wondrously creepy, spooky story that is both forward-thinking and true to its roots. Described as H.P. Lovecraft meets The Bronte Sisters in Latin America, the story follows Noemí, a young, glamourous debutant who leaves her lovely home in the city to rescue her beleaguered cousin Catalina, who is being kept prisoner in a gloomy, isolated hilltop mansion by her new husband and in-laws.
Noemí may seem like a lightweight party girl, but she also tough, smart, and bold. She is not afraid of the bizarre cast of characters who inhabit the house, nor the dark, creaky home itself. But when the dwelling takes on a personality of its own and begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom played out on its wallpaper and through its floorboards, she starts to rethink her mission. It is, of course, too late to turn back.
Moreno-Garcia is a wonderful writer, painting pictures of a time (the 1950s) and a place (Mexico) while allowing us in the mind of her heroine with her well-wrought words and clever devices. Like most tales of this genre, Mexican Gothic is a slow yet absorbing burn. Very little actually happens until the end, and a big finish it is! Just when you’re beginning to wonder whether or not Mexican Gothic will turn out to be a supernatural tale, the vindictive ghosts come out to play. There’s a definite feminist bent to the proceedings, but it doesn’t feel like a gimmick or an admonishment of history’s sad truths—it’s organic to the story, making the revenge that much sweeter. The author also tackles racism in a thought-provoking but not obvious manner.
The author creates a rich tapestry that sets the stage perfectly for the TV series treatment. Not only is the environment as atmospheric as can be, but the cast of characters is also colorful and textured with depth and nuance.
Mexican Gothic is out via e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audio. The series is now in development at Hulu.