Mexican Gothic is a refreshing breed of horror novel, written by a Latinx author and set in 1950s Mexico – it’s recent rise onto the NYT bestseller list proves that there is a market for a wide breadth of fiction from Latinx authors. I adored the concept behind this and all the promise it brought of a mesmerising addition to the horror world.
Mexican Gothic inhabits an odd world both on and off the page. There is no denying that the writing is a singular achievement, it manages to pay homage to the gothic novels it so often refers to while remaining more so accessible to a modern audience. It perfectly and unapologetically captures gorgeous swathes of culture, you cannot divorce this novel from it’s author and it’s setting – and it’s all the better for it. I really do love the literary finesse Garcia manages to execute in this novel, the only critique I have regarding the writing itself is that it often feels as though we’re stuck at surface level with Noemí. In spite of all the background given to her, it often felt like we were watching through a window rather than being truly immersed. Having said that, I did like Noemí as a character – she never changes in the face of her adversity, nor society.
The pacing is balanced on the head of a pin, the unfolding of events bearing on tedium ever so slightly. While I can appreciate the craft, the reading experience for the first half of the book was a neutral experience – it wasn’t by any means bad. However, this build up – exploring the house and it’s inhabitants – failed to effectively produce the sort of tension one might expect in a horror novel. The house being such a prominent part of the novel was one of my favourite elements, I do wish that it had been better treated as a character in it’s own right. While the ending was satisfactory, the novel failed to elicit any genuine sense of urgency even during its more active scenes. Again, I can and do appreciate this novel – I think it’s a good book.
In fact, I think it’s a really good book.
What mars what could have been a perfect book is the simple fact that for the majority of the book I wasn’t actively enjoying the book – again, it’s a tough dichotomy, I didn’t not like it either. The novel soared in its dialect, it’s character interactions – especially those between Noemí and Virgil, as well as the development of her relationship with Francis. The plot much like the writing is a testament to how well Garcia knows her craft. It’s a carefully curated mixture of otherworldly grounded by mythology.
I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.