If you are looking for a book with sumptuous characters, settings, mystery and spine chilling horrors, look no further than New York Times Best-Selling author Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. A rich and lovely example of the gothic horror genre, our Mexican Gothic book club questions will help you explore these interesting characters and their mystical setting.
The main character, Noemí Taboada, is a head strong Mexican socialite in the 1950’s, challenging the sexist social norms imposed on her by her father and society. She and her father receive a concerning letter regarding her cousin, Catalina, who seems to be suffering from visions and mental challenges at her new home with her husband Virgil. The large estate, High Place, is near a small mining town in the verdant highlands of Hidalgo.
Noemi travels there, hoping to discover what is happening to Catalina, and to help her in any way she can. The strange and horrific events that follow offer some great topics for discussion, and our Mexican Gothic discussion guide can help you explore them.
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The guide includes a book synopsis (is it an accurate description of the book?), selected reviews (do you agree or disagree with the reviews?), and 10 question prompts.
And if you like gothics or Mexican authors, we’ve got suggestions for 3 books like Mexican Gothic to add to your TBR pile.
Mexican Gothic Synopsis
Mexican Gothic, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
Mexican Gothic Book Club Questions
- What do you think Noemí’s life would have been like had she never visited High Place?
- “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.”
How do you think the sexism of this period affected Noemí and Catalina? How did it restrict them, and force them to make certain decisions?
- What were your feelings about High Place? Did you feel like it became a character in the story?
- What do you think Noemí and Francis’s future will look like?
- What was the scariest part of the story for you?
- Moreno-Garcia based her town and setting on her travels in the mountainous area of Hidalgo, Mexico, and a real British cemetery there. You can see photos of it here.
What do you think of the setting of High Place? Does it fit into your perceptions of Mexico?
- “Old would have been an inaccurate word to describe him. He was ancient, his face gouged with wrinkles, a few sparse hairs stubbornly attached to his skull. He was very pale too, like an underground creature. A slug, perhaps. His veins contrasted with his pallor, thin, spidery lines of purple and blue.”
What a description! What do you think of Howard?
- Who was your favorite character in this book? Who was your least favorite?
- What do you think about the ending? Do you think the story is really finished?
- Even though this story takes place in Mexico, it is heavily entrenched with British colonialism. How does this impact the characters, villagers, and events of the story?
Mexican Gothic Selected Reviews
“I resurfaced from Mexican Gothic feeling both exhilarated and exhausted with words, sighing with the horrified relief of a hundred pages’ worth of held breath finally expelled, but unable to shake off this novel for days afterwards. This is what I’ve come to recognize as the gorgeous marker of a well-told story: wonderful and terrible and, like a childhood memory.”
“For as intriguing as it is, immersive it is not. This tale is bizarre and fascinating in its monotony, and in the second half there lies the charm—or the problem, depending on how you look at it. I’d considered why I wasn’t as enamored and mesmerized as the majority of GR readers seemed to be, and I decided it was because I didn’t vibe with the writing…The book goes so far as utilizing disturbing themes and graphic scenes, but they are never truly felt. The whole experience for me was like NOT peering through a pair of 3D glasses.”
“A dark, chilling atmosphere. A spirited heroine. And a house that never lets its inhabitants go. Sometimes a book hits all the right notes for me, and Mexican Gothic certainly did that….There is a chill that permeates the pages, making for a deliciously dark and creepy read. Many books promise this, but in my experience, so few actually deliver, with most falling into silly and eye-rolling territory. But this story got it spot-on. I just wanted to huddle in a comfy blanket with a hot cup of tea, and turn the pages as fast as I could.”
3 Books Like Mexican Gothic
If you want more weird sibling dynamics and creepy house vibes, check out our books club guide for The Thirteenth Tale.
If you’re keen to explore more Mexican authors, here’s a whole list of them. And here are three specific suggestions for you. Two feature more creepy houses and the third is by an award-winning Mexican author.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The young and newest Mrs. de Winter moves into the magnificent Manderley estate with her new, handsome husband. Yet all is not well. She feels the suffocating presence of the former Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, everywhere she goes. Her husband seems to be tortured by secrets, the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers bristles at her presence, and Rebecca’s perfection and mystery seems to lurk around every corner of the estate.
This book offers fascinating, emotional characters, and a plot with sinister events that haunt the characters and slowly reveal themselves throughout the book.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.
If you are looking for a story where the characters experience their haunting and horrors at the hands of an old mysterious home, The Haunting of Hill House is an excellent option. The book centers around four characters who decide to investigate reports of hauntings at the Hill House by actually staying there.
The story begins with small curious occurrences, but progresses to an end with a frightful relationship between one of the characters and the house.
No One Will See Me Cry by Cristina Rivera Garza
(Andrey Hurley, translator)
Set in 1920’s Mexico, this award winning book follows two complex and troubled characters as they explore their pasts and contemplate the future. Joaquin is a photographer who encounters Matilda, a patient in a mental institution, whom he believes was a prostitute he knew years ago.
They proceed to navigate the meaning of their lives and love during one of the most turbulent times of Mexican history.
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Authored by Lacy Challe
She’s is an avid reader who lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and dog. She has loved reading and writing about books since childhood, and eventually earned degrees in Comparative Literature and Library and Information Science. She loves analyzing books and providing recommendations to family and friends.