Reading Diary: Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ‘Mexican Gothic’

Reading Diary: Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ‘Mexican Gothic’

“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the focus of this month’s Ballerina Book Club picks, chosen by readers. Join in on the discussion by signing up for our newsletter.

On falling into the eerie, glamorous world of “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Two weeks ago, I found myself preparing to embark on an eight-hour car trip back to New York City. I had journeyed home to Kentucky to play the role of babysitter for my sister’s newborn, Rowan. After days of minimum sleep and maximum laundry (because babies = messy), I sat apprehensively at the thought of venturing back so underslept. I mentioned my concerns to my sister, and she proposed the novel idea of an audiobook. And I thought: You know what? What a great idea because I do co-run a book club!

Before I even merged onto the interstate, I was engrossed in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic.” I was captivated by this badass of a protagonist Noemí Taboada. By chapter two, I wanted to be her. “I’ve got to run, but you can still have a bit of my lipstick,” she replied, taking her cigarette and putting it in her date’s mouth.

Her style, her wit, her defiance of constructs and expectations — you find yourself rooting for her from the get-go. The plot thickens when Noemí leaves Mexico City and arrives at High Place, the strange and gloomy manor where she is sent to rescue her cousin, Catalina, who has fallen ill under the watch of her new husband, Virgil Doyle.

The eerie house — situated high on a hill surrounded by ravines in El Triunfo, Mexico — stands as a shrine to its inhabitant’s homeland of England. Even the dirt is imported. And did I mention the “master” of the house, Howard Doyle, has an obsession with eugenics? You don’t need to say much more to get my skin crawling.

The Doyle’s moved to El Triunfo in the late 1800s to mine seemingly abundant silver, but along the way, they buried countless local workers due to inexplicable disease. Noemí, restricted by the rigid staff and misogynistic patriarch, is left to her own devices to tend to her cousin and get to the bottom of this mysterious and bone-chilling nightmare.

I arrived home with a little over a hundred pages to spare. I couldn’t let the book come and go in one day. It felt too precious and too exciting — I wanted to savor it. So the next morning, I decided to switch to print. Picking up the physical book, I felt like I was meeting someone off Tinder. We had shared this really intimate and personal exchange together and now we were face-to-face for the first time. Would it feel the same? Would physically holding the book and reading the words on the page evoke the same excitement listening had? It felt like cheating to break the spine and enter mid-climax, not even yet acquainted with name spellings. But after a chapter of awkward air and shifty eyes, we found our fire.

I don’t often fly through books, but I seriously could not put this one down until it was complete. Whether you are cruising with the audio book or cradling the hardcover, Moreno-Garcia paints such vivid and spooky spectacle that keeps you guessing until the very end. It’s a book I was sad to finish and have thought about every day since. It’s almost as if I’m trapped in High Place and can’t get out. Who’s there with me?

Bonus: Looking for something to listen to while reading? Silvia Moreno-Garcia created a playlist for “Mexican Gothic.” Play if you dare!

What are your thoughts?

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