“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.”
This! Book! Was! Bananas!
I’m going to keep it real and note that I tend to stay away from horror stories– I’m a romance girl at heart; I love getting invested in fluff and comedy and aww-ing. The only reason I really picked this book up was because people had been going crazy for it on Bookstagram and coincidently, I had just read one of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other books Gods of Jade and Shadow and ended up loving it.
So, yeah, I was expecting a pretty spooky little story about a haunted house, probably written in a semi-detached tone because that was what I had come to expect from GoJaS.
What I got was a cinematic masterpiece of a book that might bring Guillermo del Torro to tears. What I got was straining my eyes and heart as I flipped through page after page to get to the next part. What I got was me sitting, staring into space when the book finally ended and I was left with visions of mushrooms spores and a house that breathes in my head.
It was fucking awesome.
Let’s summarize this bitch, so we are all on the same page:
Noemí Taboada is a carefree, flighty socialite from Mexico City who has just gotten an urgent, nearly incoherent letter from her beloved cousin, Catalina. Her father, concerned for Catalina after she married a pretty shady dude, urges Noemí to go to Catalina’s new home and check in on her. So Noemí goes and what she finds is a centuries old house and an unwelcoming, did-i-mention-shady family who act like relics from the past. Well, shit starts getting spooky pretty quick. The walls start breathing, fungus dances on the walls, and Noemi starts having the weirdest dreams. In a few words: Noemí’s life takes a sharp turn to crazy-town.
I mentioned earlier that I had problems connecting with GoJaS due to a sort of detachment in the writing style until about midway through that book. There was none of that here. From the very first page, you are front and center in the mind of Noemí. And what a mind that is–Noemí is progressive, snarky, and wholly unwilling to take shit from the aforementioned shady family. She seems to have a knack for getting into trouble, but just as much of a knack for making friends who get her out of trouble as well. She has passions and dreams that go beyond what ladies of her time period were expected to do– something she knows, and she operates on a thin line of manipulating the oppressive system against her in her favor and occasionally outright rebelling.
“She wanted to be liked. Perhaps this explained the parties, the crystalline laughter, the well-coiffed hair, the rehearsed smile. She thought that men such as her father could be stern and men could be cold like Virgil, but women needed to be liked or they’d be in trouble. A woman who is not liked is a bitch, and a bitch can hardly do anything: all avenues are closed to her.”
In a word, she’s fabulous. And you know what else is fabulous? The descriptions. Description–tone and mood– is everything in a book trying to project an ambitious horror story. And Mexican Gothic has vivid descriptions in spades. Every choice of words in describing the thick, wall like fog that surrounds the ancestral manor Noemí stays in, every word that alludes to the house’s cavernous, beating organs (metaphorical or no? Read and find out), every. Single. Word. that expands the ever-growing terror in the pit of Noemi’s stomach as the night’s pass and she begins to understand that something is very wrong.
I wish I had the words that Silvia Moreno-Garcia has.
Speaking of which, this book is not just a shallow jump-n-scare. There are some deep themes here; discussions on eugenics and race relations, classes and economic levels, and some very real questions of desire and consent.
Not only did I come out of this book with my mind messed up, I came out of it thinking about philosophy and Darwinism.
I said before that I was a romance girl, right? Is there romance in this book? Yes! A very quiet, slow burn romance that goes from 0 to 100 real quick, but in a way that really only makes sense if you read the book. It is sweet, convoluted, and believable.
Saying that– this is not a romance book. This is a book that preys on all of our fears– what goes on in the dark? What can you trust, if not yourself?
This book is not for the faint of heart, my friends. It is a gory, unsettling little book that will take you hours to read, but will stick with you for days after.