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Mexican Gothic: 09/08/20
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is set in the early 1950s in Mexico. Noemí Taboada enjoys parties, good music, and fun. When she's not enjoying the night life of Mexico City, she's a college student. Her parents would like her to find a man and settle down like her cousin did.
Then a letter from her newlywed cousin calls everything into question. It's a plea for help. Noemí agrees to go visit her prima to visit her cousin in rural central Mexico. If she needs rescuing, she'll bring her home.
From its very introduction, High Place and the Doyles who live there are very clearly evil to the core. Howard Doyle, a reference to both H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle, is the overbearing patriarch. From the name alone he's clearly a monster. For more on the author's inspiration, please read her Goodreads post.
In horror written by white men, with this setting, the roles would be reversed. Noemí would be white and they would be Mexican (or some other "foreign" group). Here, though, Noemí is Mexican, with ties to an indigenous group. But she's also wealthy and privileged. She is the very embodiment of the things white supremacists fear and hate.
There are lots of horror novels that Mexican Gothic evokes. For me, these are the ones that stand out most. First and foremost is Frank Herbert's The Santaroga Barrier (1968), for how tied the inhabitants are to their environment. Next there is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938) for how Noemí is treated and expected to adhere to rules she doesn't understand. For how corruption is reflected in the architecture, I'm reminded of The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield (2006). For how the family members are means to an end, finally, I'm reminded of The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner (2019)
While Noemí travels via bus to the old mining town, her journey of discovery, the one that takes place within the bounds of High Place, fits into the road narrative spectrum. As I mentioned before, Noemí is a privileged traveler (00). The house's special powers — the way it holds onto memories — and the way the Doyles continue to live in the fading glory of the days when the mine produced silver — puts the destination in uhoria (CC). The route through uhoria (and to finally escape from it) is the labyrinth (99). The house transforms all who live there and kills those who can't. While the house has been dangerous to many before Noemí, it takes a liking to her, and thus isn't as fully dangerous as the maze. To summarize, Mexican Gothic is the tale of a privileged woman traveling through uhoria via the labyrinth to save her cousin.
Finally, as Silvia Moreno-Garcia lives in British Columbia, this book counts for the Canadian Book Challenge.