“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Genre: Gothic Mexican Gothic
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date:  June 30, 2020

There is nothing like a good gothic novel to escape to an eerie yet romantic world. “Mexican Gothic” has all the key gothic components; the damsel in distress; the cruel husband, the decaying mansion, creepy servants, an unwelcoming family, and a landscape that influences the characters’ behaviors.  In “Wuthering Heights,” it was the winds found in the moors.  Here it is the vapors in the walls. The novel is even complete with a female antagonist that could give Mrs. Danvers from “Rebecca” a run for her money. Still, this novel, although a good one, to my disappointment, is not a straight gothic read. It is a mixture of gothic, horror, and sci-fi.

The tale starts with a delicious gradual rise of dread. Noemi is a 20-something privileged socialite living in Mexico City in the 1950s.   Her father receives an urgent letter from her newly married cousin who lives in the countryside of Mexico.  Her letter is irrational and hard to comprehend.  She sounds mentally unstable. So, off Noemi goes to check out just what is happening  at her cousin’s house called High Place (naming the house is yet another wink at the gothic classics).  It doesn’t take her long to figure out that her cousin, as well as life in general, at High Place, is odd, off, and just plain weird.  The family crest, which is located everywhere, is of an ouroboros, which is an ancient symbol of a snake eating its tail. Yes, you are supposed to think of self-cannibalism. Soon Noemi is questioning her own sanity as well as her cousin’s.

All gothic stories have elements of horror.  Sometimes the horror is in the form of gaslighting the virgin bride.  Other times it takes the shape of Mary Shelly’s monster.  But, the second half of “Mexican” goes from gothic/horror to a horror/sci-fi theme that focuses on (spoiler) an unnatural rebirth. But, unlike Frankenstein, the tale begins to read like a campy supernatural novel. The gradual rise of dread does peak into all-out terror, yet written in such a way that I wondered “should I be wearing 3D reading glasses to finish the book?”  I have heard that “Mexican” is to be praised as a new style of gothic gone twisty. I know other reviewers, who I respect, who loved this novel. Heck, the book is already in development to become a TV series. Maybe it’s my age. I grew up with Jane Eyre. I prefer my gothic literature to have more dark romanticism and less Sigourney Weaver from “Alien.”

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“The Italian Party” by Christina Lynch

Genre:          General FictionThe Italian Party
Publisher:    St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:    March 20, 2018

Mini-Review

I wasn’t expecting to like this book, but it turns out that I did.  What I find so interesting, is that I never pay attention to book covers.  I know many do.  But, for once I did.  Since the cover of this book looks like a romance read (which I am not a fan of) I didn’t intend to read it.  However, one day when I was bookless I clicked it open, and lo and behold, I was won over.   This is a hilarious comedy about a young newly married American couple who move to Italy in the 1950s.  The book is a love letter to picturesque Italy.  You will be able to imagine the views and smell the aroma of the cuisine, while the author simultaneously pokes fun at Italian politics.   As for romance, that is not this genre but there is forbidden sex in the tale.

The couple marries keeping secrets from one another.   The wife is pregnant with another man’s child.  The husband is a CIA agent, with another secret that I cannot share without it being a spoiler.  There is also a teenage Italian boy, who the husband hires to teach his wife Italian (he can already speak the language).  However, the real reason for the boy’s employment is to help the husband spy on the local Communist Party, which is the real reason for their move to Italy.  The wife is clueless and thinks they are there for him to sell tractors.  Of course, being a comedy, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.   The husband turns out to be a bumbling spy and the wife falls for another married man.  I didn’t think that the story needed to add in an affair, it took away from some of the fun.  Still, all in all, I did a lot of chuckling. There is a surprise ending that reminds me a bit of the film “Marriage Italian Style.” The whole book is pure fun.  And for me, it is a lesson in that you cannot judge a book by its cover.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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