I finished this novel, which I’m sure will be a gothic classic, just in time for Halloween, and it was the perfect book to put me in a spooky mood. It’s unsettling and pretty creepy at times, but it won’t be keeping me up at nights.
It’s the 1950s in Mexico, and Noemi Taboada is one of the most popular socialites in Mexico City. She smart, feisty (if a little bit spoiled) and like all young adults, she’s trying to find out who she’s supposed to be.
Noemi’s cousin, Catalina, recently married a handsome European man named Virgil Doyle and moved into his creepy, gothic-style manor in a small Mexican mining town. When Catalina sends a letter that talks about ghosts and poisons, Noemi’s father sends her to investigate his nieces new home.
It is there that Noemi meets the notoriously cursed Doyle family, and she discovers something terrifying that will change her life forever.
First of all, Noemi might be my new favorite character. Sure, she makes plenty of mistakes, but her mistakes are the kind that any naive young person would make in her situation. She pretends to be the airy socialite, but she’s smart enough to squash all of Howard Doyle’s (the patriarch of the Doyle family who has an unsettling obsession with eugenics) racist remarks without batting an eye–she just quotes some intelligent anthropologists of the time. Honestly, had Jane Eyre had a touch of Noemi’s spirit, I would have been way more upset when my dog ate my copy.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but there comes a point that Noemi is struggling to control herself as the supernatural powers of the Doyles’ manor try to take control, and her struggle is so well written that I was quite literally on the edge of my seat.
Like every truly well-written gothic tale, this one tackled some pretty tough themes. It looks at nature vs. nurture, duty vs. integrity, and it makes you question the nature of man.
That said, this was suggested to me as “a horror novel for people who don’t really like the horror genre,” and I strongly disagree with that assertion. This book is extremely unsettling at times, and I would not recommend it to someone who is not looking for a good scare.