In Mexican Gothic, young socialite Noemi is sent by her father to visit her cousin Catalina after receiving a mysterious letter from Catalina indicating she’s in distress. What Noemi finds in Catalina’s new home, an isolated mansion that’s literally decaying and populated by mostly hostile in-laws, is a bizarre history of depravity and death.
I really wanted to like Mexican Gothic. The book jacket summary and the cover art portrayed an image of a really satisfying story. Plus, it made bestseller lists and the hold time at the library was really long – more signs that it should be a good book. I was excited to get started but was soon disappointed. I’ll try to tell you why and, warning, there will be spoilers.
The book didn’t start out well. I found the writing to be average and the dialog awkward. I think writing good dialog is a real skill. Sometimes it stands out as really clever, sometimes it’s a smooth and effective way to advance the story , and sometimes dialog is a distracting pot hole along the story’s journey. In this case, it was one pot hole after another. Really, much of the dialog, especially Noemi’s, was pretty silly. I almost gave up on the book early but decided to see if it got better. It didn’t. It got tedious and then it got really weird.
The middle part of the book is about Noemi’s experience at the decaying mansion, High Point. She arrives to find Catalina in bad physical and mental health. She’s paranoid and seems to be hallucinating. Catalina’s new husband, Victor, seems indifferent to her health and is overbearing and dismissive of Noemi. In fact, all the residents except Victor’s cousin, Francis, are controlling and hostile.
This part of the book is characterized by Noemi having hallucinogenic dreams over and over and over again. Additionally, there’s a budding relationship between Noemi and milquetoast Francis. Other reviews called this a “slow burn.” I just call it monotonous.
Towards the end of the book it gets really strange with a predominant supernatural element I wasn’t expecting (I didn’t know it was THAT kind of book!). All throughout the book was a constant presence of mold and mushrooms. Mold grew all over the inside of the house and mushrooms populated the grounds, especially the cemetery. It turns out that some of the fungus made people immortal. Victor’s father, Henry, had figured it out and was supposedly a few hundred years old. He had also figured out how to create a fungus-based ecosystem, called The Gloom, that allowed him to control people and prevented certain people from ever leaving the house. There were also confusing elements of incest and eating babies.
Told you it was weird.
I think parts of Mexican Gothic were supposed to evoke horror in the reader. I have to admit I haven’t read much horror so I can’t comment on how this compares to other horror stories. All I can say is that the descriptions of pustules oozing black goo and of dead bodies feeding The Gloom left me a little meh. I didn’t find it scary, just very odd.
This book is going to be made into a short series on Hulu. Maybe it will be better on the screen?
Has anyone else read Mexican Gothic? I’d love to hear another opinion.