Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Mexican Gothic"
Review of Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Book of the Month, October 2020
Written by Las Comadres Book Club member and DC Public Library staff member, Gabi K. H.
Book club wanted a spooky scare for October's book club, and we read Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic. Now, book club is usually non-contentious -- we are opinionated, but seldom do we have clearly polarized perspectives. This was the book that split book club. The majority of participants loved the book. The drama, scenery, genre, time period, main character, relationships, all of it. This camp joined several other major outlets in praising Moreno-Garcia's work, including Kirkus Reviews, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, and the Washington Post, among others. The book was listed as one of Good Read's Best Books of 2020 in the horror category. A few of the other members disagreed, and quite strongly.
I'll start from the beginning -- Noemi Taboada is a beautiful, wealthy, spunky young woman, who enjoys a good party, a good flirt, getting wooed. Her social life is interrupted when her father calls upon her to check on her recently-married cousin, Catalina, who has been behaving strangely. The horror begins as soon as Noemi arrives to High Place, a place of heavy and constant gloom, where Catalina lives with her husband and new family. Armed with the help of a local curandera, and her own wit and smarts, Noemi uncovers the horrifying truth and history behind the mysterious Doyle family.
The book entices the reader with it's beautiful and bold cover. While reading through the book, I wondered if I was missing something, given the high acclaim, and did some research to learn more about Moreno-Garcia. The amount of research she poured into her novel is astonishing. Turns out, there is an area in Mexico, in a town called Real del Monte, nicknamed Little Cornwall, a historic British mining town. Moreno-Garcia considered all of the details, from the weather to popular fashion of the time period (the 1950's).
Despite the detailed research, I found the character and plot development to fall short. I kept wanting more, more of Noemi, more of High Place. The mystery and reveal was underwhelming, as was the writing. Perhaps my high expectations from reviews and popularity of the book tainted my impression before opening the book.I'll say this, I absolutely loved what Silvia Moreno-Garcia said about reading in a PEN America interview, and I try to tell myself this over and over again: "Read everything—nonfiction, fiction, memoirs, novellas, pulp, obscure stuff, the canon and the obscure. Writing is a constant conversation with yourself and with literature. You can’t have that if you’ve only tasted one dish."