The October pick for My Night's Book Clubbed was Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and it could not have been a more perfect reading choice for spooky season. Random House provides an amazing Book Club Kit which provides insight into the authors inspiration to the novel, as well as discussion questions and even a playlist you can listen to while reading. This kit brings an entirely new level to reading and I highly recommend you take a peek and read about the history of mining and Mexico City. It gives a context that makes you appreciate Mexican Gothic even more.
Set in 1950's Mexico City, debutante Noemí Taboada travels to High Place to check on her newlywed cousin, Catalina, who sent a frantic letter alleging she is in danger. High Place is a massive gothic mansion owned by Catalina's in-laws and seems to hold secrets that are itching to be let out. Noemí finds herself in the midst of a house and family that wants to devour her thoughts and soul. She finds solace in the youngest son in the family whose shy and quiet demeanor comforts Noemí, yet he seems to be hiding secrets of his own. Noemí is on a mission to find out what is wrong with Catalina and what secrets this mysterious English family is hiding.
Gothic horror is not a genre I tend to read, but Mexican Gothic opened my eyes to how fabulous it can be. There's this sense of foreboding and sensuality that is entrancing with Moreno-Garcia's atmospheric writing. I felt transported to Mexico City in the 1950's. The writing is sensory, lush, and decadent. I felt like I could feel the dampness of the mansion, smell the tinge of mold and decay, hear the creaks of the old house, touch the velvet upholstered drapes, and taste the bitter herbal teas and dry toast Noemí receives each morning.
The writing is lush, dark, mysterious, sinister, and sensual. It was evident that something was up with this family and this creepy house, but nothing prepared me for the truth. Mexican Gothic touches on topics such as eugenics and anthropology in such an interesting way. Virgil's grandfather is the house patriarch. He becomes weirdly interested/obsessed with Noemí and her "good genes." I thought this tie in was particularly interesting. There is also a lot of foreshadowing with mushrooms. I caught this early on as Francis is interested in botany and often is found foraging for mushrooms or sketching them. This plays a major role in what is happening in High Place. After reading Mexican Gothic, I went down a Google rabbit hole with researching horticulture, mycology (the study of fungi), and entheogen (the use of fungi psychedelics for spiritual purposes.) I didn't even know this was a thing!
Overall, I really enjoyed Mexican Gothic. It was a slow burning gothic horror that kept me turning the pages. Fairy tales were a common theme throughout the book and a way that Catalina and Noemí bonded as children. This played a major role in the story line and ultimately how the book ended. The climax of the plot is one where it will either turn you off or on to this book. I can understand why some people either loved or didn't care for this book. It was evident something wasn't right, but no part of me could have predicted what was going on at High Place. Because of that, I loved it. Any book that can keep me on my toes is well worth the read. Bravo Silvia Moreno-Garcia! I look forward to discussing this one with our book club.
"Books, moonlight, and melodrama."
"The world might indeed be a cursed circle, the snake swallowed its tail and there could be no end, only an eternal ruination and endless devouring."
Book Club Discussion Questions:
What was your first impression of Noemí and did your opinion of her change throughout the book?
What were your initial theories about what was happening to Catalina?
What was your first impression of Francis and Virgil? When did your opinion change throughout the book.
What did you think of the authors tie ins with eugenics and anthropology?
Were was anyone aware of mushrooms and their use for psychedelic and spiritual use?
What did you think of the ending?
Do you think there could be a sequel? If so, where do you think the story could go and which characters would be the focus?