With the weather changing and Halloween season approaching it is a great time to read a gothic novel. While the term “gothic” initially brings to mind much older novels, such as Jane Eyre Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings a fresh take to the genre with her 2021 novel Mexican Gothic. The novel both pays homage to the gothic and subverts the gothic narrative in the best ways. With a main character (Noemi Taboada) that updates the typical gothic heroine, this novel rewrites what the gothic genre can do. Including a range of subtopics such as race, gender roles, and ecocriticism Mexican Gothic does more than frighten the reader; it also makes the reader think on a much deeper level. The novel saw sweeping success this year, topping many bestseller lists including the New York Times Bestseller List. The novel's success isn't slowing down either with the latest news that it will be turned into a Hulu mini series.
I was initially drawn to Mexican Gothic because as a Latina I loved the fact that it gave a Latinx take on a genre often dominated by white stories. Moreno-Garcia is not only Latina herself, but her main character Noemi is a Latina and the setting takes place in Mexico. Moreno-Garcia does not shy away from difficult topics either. In the span of the novel she tackles things such as eugenics, sexism, and colonization. Moreno-Garcia does all of these things and more without ever taking the reader out of the gothic aspects of the novel. While her main character is navigating the horrors of her situation she simultaneously is navigating the realities of being a Latina in the 1950s.
As I read the novel, I found myself getting more invested with each turn of the page. After a few chapters it became difficult for me to put the book down as it slowly builds to its climactic and terrifying ending. Noemi is an epic gothic heroine equal parts fierce and fun. The novel begins when Noemi gets a suspicious letter from her cousin Catalina and her life is turned upside down. Noemi is sent to the countryside to check on Catalina by her businessman father. Catalina is living at her new husband’s familial country home (High Place) that is reminiscent of the great gothic homes in literature. Catalina’s new husband Virgil Doyle and his family compiled of his creepy grandfather, evil aunt, and meek younger cousin are all that is left of the family that emigrated from Britain. Struggling to hold onto the little bit of power they have left in Mexico, the Doyles are desperate and their home (High Place) is eerily dangerous. With the help of Virgil’s cousin Francis, Noemi fights to save her cousin and get to the truth of what is really happening at High Place. As Noemi gets closer to the truth the novel gets scarier leading up to an epic and captivating end. Mexican Gothic has it all and most importantly gives readers an important update to the gothic genre.
This Fall, get in the spooky spirit and read Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. I guarantee it will not disappoint!
Autumn Andersen is an editor for Penumbra Online and grad student at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about her favorite shows.