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320 pages, Hardcover
First published June 30, 2020
“It wasn’t made for love, the house.”
“Any place is made for love,” she protested.
“Not this place and not us. You look back two, three generations, as far as you can. You won’t find love. We are incapable of such a thing.”
“There’re heavy places. Places where the air itself is heavy because an evil weighs it down. Sometimes it’s a death, could be it’s something else, but the bad air, it’ll get into your body and it’ll nestle there and weigh you down. That’s what’s wrong with the Doyles of High Place.”
The Written Review
Just posted my Goodreads Choice 2020 Reaction Video on Booktube! Click the link to check it out!!
To be frank - this one was GORGEOUS.
“They said, in dusty little towns around the country, that witches could turn into balls of fire and fly through the air.”
“So I’ll be wed in the Church of the Holy Incestuous Mushroom?” she intoned. “I doubt that’s valid.”Mexican Gothic is set in a strange place - an old decrepit English manor house built by the English owners of the now-defunct silver mine, the English who despite living in Mexico for 70 years are dead-set on keeping everything in their small remote dreary domain as *English* as possible, down to the soil that the family patriarch brought with him from England to Mexico. In High Place it’s not really Mexico in the 1950s; it’s gloomy gothic claustrophobic Wuthering Heights-style Old World, complete with the creepy dying patriarch spouting eugenics while not ogling young ladies. The strange uptight and very creepy, once rich but now declining Doyle family inhabits the manor, the damp and moldy house where mushrooms might as well grow out of the walls.
“Treasure troves from their vault, carefully placed in crates, just like the dark earth Howard had packed, so that they might reassemble the world where they’d reigned as masters.”
“Noemí, like any good socialite, shopped at the Palacio de Hierro, painted her lips with Elizabeth Arden lipstick, owned a couple of very fine furs, spoke English with remarkable ease, courtesy of the nuns at the Monserrat—a private school, of course—and was expected to devote her time to the twin pursuits of leisure and husband hunting.”
“This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment. I have tried to hold on to my wits, to keep this foulness away but I cannot and I find myself losing track of time and thoughts. Please. Please. They are cruel and unkind and they will not let me go. I bar my door but still they come, they whisper at nights and I am so afraid of these restless dead, these ghosts, fleshless things.”
“Noemí, just because there are no ghosts it doesn’t mean you can’t be haunted. Nor that you shouldn’t fear the haunting.”
The haunted house mystery is done quite well. Well, maybe not as much the actual mystery part - there’s no reason why by at least the halfway point you wouldn’t figure out at least some of the reasons for all the strangeness in the house and the family - but certainly the atmosphere is captured perfectly. The suffocating damp gloom of the stuffy decrepit mansion, the moldy remains of former splendor, the rotting books and tarnished silver, the oppressive silence, the entire dreary existence of the corner of the world clinging on to colonialism and vestiges of power and perceived superiority over the people and their land. The dismissive attitude towards those thought of as “inferior” (“You are much darker than your cousin, Miss Taboada”, nastily observes Howard Doyle, and proceeds to inquire, “What are your thoughts on the intermingling of superior and inferior types?”). The increasingly vivid descriptions of the grotesque as we are getting closer and closer to the climax and resolution.
“A body. That’s what they all were to them. The bodies of miners in the cemetery, the bodies of women who gave birth to their children, and the bodies of those children who were simply the fresh skin of the snake. And there on the bed lay the body that mattered. The father.”
It gets quite sinister and not shy on the grotesque. It maintains the sense of unease throughout, feeling strange and haunted and surreal. It also smartly touches on the more “everyday” issues of exploitation, misogyny and eugenics, clashing the pseudo-Victorian sensibilities with more modern - although on their way to become antiquated as well - sensibilities.