Catherine Morland’s Reading List: Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

You all know how much I love spooky and gothic fiction, almost as much as my girl Catherine does.

That’s why I started Catherine Morland’s Reading List, a list of gothic fiction I recommend for my fellow spooky lovers.

When I first saw this book last year I was really excited! I love gothic fiction, and being Mexican; I couldn’t wait to see how the author blended those two components. Mexican culture has a lot of superstitions that would be ripe for a gothic tale.

Noemí Taboada has everything anyone could want in 1950s Mexico City: youth, beauty, and wealth. Well…almost everything. What Noemí really wants to do is continue her education and get her masters in anthropology, but her father refuses to support her as he feels a few years at the university is enough for any woman. To get back at him Noemí dates men her father feels are beneath their family and has become flighty in everything she does; nothing and no one lasting for very long.

However, when Noemí’s father receives a troubling letter from his niece Catalina, he proposes that if Noemí will go to visit Catalina in her home in the country, The High Place, and see if Catalina needs help; he will allow her to continue her education as far as she wants. She readily agrees.

Catalina lost her parents at a young age and she has always been close to the Taboada side. She and Noemí were almost like sisters, but that all changed when Catalina married. There is still so much that Noemí doesn’t know about Catlina’s marriage, she was engaged and planning a civil ceremony before Noemí even knew Catalina had a sweetheart. As the marriage happened so quickly, no one really had time to meet the groom, Virgil Doyle, his family, or discover what his finances were. Senor Taboada, Noemí’s father, was most displeased; and ever since then Virgil whisked Catalina away to his home far from Mexico City where the train barely visits and no phone lines exist. Nothing had been heard from Catalina for months, with all assuming it was because of normal newlywed ardor and the frostiness wiht the family…but that all changed with a rambling, handwritten letter.

Catalina has never been one to keep up a correspondence but when she did it was always typewritten and to the point. This letter is handwritten, rambling, full of strange symbols, and accuses her husband and his family of poisoning her and forcing her to stay when she wishes to leave. She begs Noemí to come and save her. As Senor Taboada discovered after the wedding, the Doyles no longer have any money; just an old British name, a closed mine, and an old home. He’s worried that Catalina has lost her mind and Virgil is forcing her to stay to keep control of her money, or perhaps worse. Maybe she wants to divorce him and he won’t let his meal ticket go? If Senor Taboada were to visit they would all be on their best behavior, but if Noemí were to go, perhaps she can discover the truth and find out if it is just a “woman’s issue” (it’s the 1950s remember) or something far sinister.

Hmmm…

This is only 13 pages in in and I am already hooked. I immediately started conjecturing, might it be a like in Gaslight where the husband drives his wife mad to keep her money? Could there be something supernatural like in The Tomb of Ligeia where the ghost of the first wife torments the new wife? With gothic fiction it can go in any type of direction.

When Noemí arrived she is not reassured. The Doyle’s live very high up the mountain where it is foggy, forest-y, and solitary. The mountainside also has the ruined look from its former mining operations. The Doyle’s are very English, no Spanish is spoken in the house, food is British, they even brought British soil to try to “recreate” the homeland. The house is decrepit and falling apart, although one can see that it “used” to be a beautiful building.

Creepy…

I’ve read a lot of Gothic fiction and this house is already giving me a bad vibe.

Noemí goes to see Catalina who is pale, still, and has no memory of writing any letter. She has to take medication multiple times a day that leaves her sleepy after. Is the medicine really helping her? Or is it to keep her quiet?

In the house the patriarch Howard Doyle. With them is Howard’s son and Catalina’s husband Virgil; along with Howard’s niece Florence, and her son Francis. Howard is ancient and disgusting (along with being racist), but he does appreciate Noemí’s spirit. Florence seems to dislike her from the first moment she set eyes on her and constantly shoots rude barbs at her. The only one who seems nice at all is Francis, but he is very quiet and tries to keep the peace, not one to stand up for himself. Virgil is definitely hiding sometneing, as he is more defensive than he should be, and quickly attacks Noemí’s character.

That night is the first night Noemí has a nightmare, a nightmare about being silenced and something lurking in the moldy yellow-pink wallpaper.

At this point I would have left and gone home to my father bringing him back to rescue Catalina. I’ve read far too many gothic novels and too many books; I would not have stayed. There is something off about all of this.

SUPER creeped

The days are boring and quiet, the solitude is deafening, and Noemí tries to do her best in this crumbling gargoyle, full of mold and depression. Noemí tries to discover the truth surrounding Catalina’s accusations but hardly gets a moment alone with Catalina. When she is able to, much of what Catalina says doesn’t make sense; “it” being in the wall, the walls whispering to her, etc. Is it in her head? Or is there a sinister ploy like in Under Capricorn? One thing was somewhat sensible, Catalina asks Noemí to go down to the village and get a tincture from a healer named Martza.

When Noemí is finally able to wrangle a ride to town, she meets up with the Mexican doctor and tries to get him to take a look at Catalina. However, he is not interested in going, as he does not think he will be welcomed by the Doyle’s. He also shares that there have been many strange happenings in High Place. When the mine was operational the workers would get sick with a high fever, rant, rave, speak in riddles, convulse, and die. It would be quiet for several years and then start up again. There is an English cemetery behind the house while the Mexicans would be sent down the hill for burial.

When Normí meets Martza she discovers Martza was the mystery letter mailer, that’s why the Doyle’s had no clue about it. Catalina gave it to Martza and asked her to mail it for her. Defiantly suspicious. Martza also reveals that the family is cursed. She tells Noemí about an event that happened nearly 20 years ago. Ruth was Howard’s daughter and she was supposed to marry her cousin Michael, but a week before the wedding she shot her groom, mother, aunt, and uncle. Virgil survived as Florence hid him away. After taking care of the others, she then turned the gun on herself. Most of the servants left and the family stayed up on the mountain out of sight. Florence married a stranger named Richard, who was nice, but then started talking about ghosts, spirits, the evil eye, etc. he disappeared and was later found at the bottom of a ravine. The townspeople are afraid of them as everything the Doyles touch rots.

The local doctor comes to call and Noemí questions him. He believes that Catalina is anxious, melancholic, and that her illness has aggravated it. Noemí finds the idea of Catalina anxious odd as she was never one to stress, and asks about what could have caused the depressive state. Virgil blames it on the death of Catalina’s mother, but that was years ago. The doctor tells Noemí that Catalina is recovering from tuberculosis and will be fine. He also cautions Noemí against getting anxious or agaitated. Cautions…or threatens?

Hmm…

The longer Noemí stays there the more strange and sinister things seem to be. Howard had two wives, Agnes and Alice Doyle (sisters and his cousins), both not lasting a year after their wedding ceremonies. Even more suspicious as now Catalina is failing. Noemí continues to have nightmares, them getting more and more frightening; with Noemí even questioning her own sanity! Is it something supernatural? Is it chemical? Is someone in the family trying to make them lose their sanity? Is the house and family really cursed? Whatever the reason, Noemí must find a way to free her cousin and herself before it is too late.

I won’t give the ending away as it was really good, and not quite what I was expecting. I definitely recommend for any gothic fiction lovers. It was a really great read and I’m eager to read her other books.

I can’t put the book down

For more from Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to The Night Gardener

For more Gothic Fiction, go to Secrets of the Heart

The Return of the List: Catherine Morland’s Viewing List, Part II

I year ago it was Friday the 13th and all I could think about was watching scary movies. While I did I started thinking what movies would Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney like if they were real and lived today? I decided to put together a list of 30 film recommendations that our girl Catherine Morland or boy Henry Tilney would most certainly love!

This is a continuation from the original, Catherine Morland’s Viewing List and will be another great 30 Gothic films or films with Gothic components. For those who are wondering what classifies something as a Gothic, here is the definition.

Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance.

Any films I have already reviewed that fit for this list I will just list and link here, while any future film I review I will add a little note as to why it belongs on this list. I have 10 years worth of horror film reviews from my annual October Horrorfest, but I’m not sure how many of those will be on here. For now I’m going to put on the ones I have recently re-edited, and then will be adding more as time goes by. If you are looking for recommendations, be sure to check back later, and if you have a suggestion be sure to comment below!

I Bid You Welcome: Dracula (1931)

Even a Man Pure of Heart: The Wolf Man (1941)

Because I Am Mad, I Hate You. Because I Am Mad, I Have Betrayed You: Gaslight (1944)

If Only It Was the Picture Who was to Grow Old, and I Remain Young: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie?: Scream (1996)

That Video…is Not of This World: Ringu (1998)

For more movie lists, go to Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Miss Abbott and the Doctor WEBTOON

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers is something I started a while back for fans of Jane Austen who after reading all her book are looking for something else to read.

There are Jane Austen’s works and numerous variations, but while those adapts are fun, sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but something different. But what can you read instead?

That’s why I started this series. I will be reviewing books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but are not another retelling.

Miss Abbott and the Doctor by Maripaz Villar

I started reading this comic in October of 2020 and always planned on writing a post on it but just never got around to it (that tends to happen a lot, unfortunately). Well no time better than the present, right?

From the beginning.

The WEBTOON Miss Abbot and the Doctor is a lined only (not filled in) WEBTOON that is set in a pseudo-Victorian Era. The comic actually begins in the middle as the author/cartoonist originally only planned a few episodes on Deviant Art before fleshing it out and moving over to WEBTOON. But don’t worry, any questions regarding the back stories or what lead them to that point in the story, are all filled in as the main characters get closer and talk more about their past and what lead them here.

The story follows the adventures of Miss Cati Abbott and Dr. Andreas Marino. Cati’s parents went off to the Amazon in search of a society that spurned the influence of technology. They, and most of their group, ended up passing away with Cati being taken in and raised by a tribe there.

One day, widow and anthropologist, Kira Aquila-Salazar, was on an expedition to find and learn more about the Shuar people, but ended up falling ill. Cati found her, helped her, and the two become very good friends. Kira becomes Cati’s mentor and brings her home with her to learn more about their society.

Dr. Andreas Marino was raised in the city and after he finished his studies and was beginning to practice medicine, his grandfather decided to retire and asked him to take over his practice. Dr. Marino moves to the small town and clashes with several characters, mostly Miss Abbott, as he has strict ideas about behavior, character, and how a gentleman and lady should be.

At first he only had one friend, Sebastian Nero, who is his opposite as he has a very open nature and immediately makes friends with anyone he meets.

At first Dr. Marino and Miss Abbott do not get along as they have such contrasting personalities, but over time both balance each other as Cati opens up Dr. Marino to more adventure and less constraint and Dr. Marino helps Cati reign in her imagination and be a bit more levelheaded.

So why do I recommend this for Jane Austen fans? First of all, Cati reminds me a lot of a mix of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, and Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. Cati is smart, witty, and send off a great barb, strong, athletic and knows how to take care of herself and others. She is also a bit naive, can be judgmental, and has an overactive imagination that does tend to cause her to either get carried away or try and do something without thinking it through.

She learns from both her mentor Kira, friend Rebecca, and eventual love interest Dr. Marino; to not get rid of the things that make her special but to temper her imagination and to think things through more.

Dr. Marino reminds me of Mr. Darcy with a mix of Gilbert Blythe. When he first comes to the town he has some preconceived notions about the townspeople, having grown up in the city, and isn’t as warm or open to people as he could be.

Over time those walls are broken down, primarily with his relationship with Miss Abbott as she points out his faults, he tries to correct them, and he learns to let go and go along with some of her fun and eccentric ideas.

I believe that the author loves Jane Austen too, particularly after reading this little scene.

When I first read this series, almost all were free episodes until after the wedding (above image). However, now only the first 18 episodes are free with the rest being a daily pass; one free a day unless you would like to pay three coins an episode. It can be a little hard trying to wait every day to read the next episode, but if you are willing to wait it out I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Or another episode to be available through daily pass

You can read the series by going to the WEBTOON app or going to the WEBTOON website.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Ella Enchanted

For more comics, go to Emma Manga

Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Emma

Emma (Jane Austen Children’s Stories #4) by Jane Austen, adapted by Gemma Barder

I did not originally plan to purchase both the Northanger Abbey and Emma adaptations in this series so close together. If I had I would have done a dual post like I did for the Babylit series. I was just going to purchase the Northanger Abbey one, but a couple weeks after my cousin’s birthday party I discovered that my friend moved her daughter’s birthday party up to the first weekend in June. I needed a present stat and I always buy her a book and toy for her birthday.

So when I was trying to find a book for a 7 year old, the first thing that popped in my head was to get another one book from the Jane Austen Children’s Stories.

As I mentioned in my previous review, any time I spot a children’s book that has to do with Jane Austen, I try and purchase it to gift to them and hopefully influence spark a love of Jane Austen in them.

The Jane Austen Children’s Stories series takes the text of Jane Austen and adapts it for children who are reading on their own and want something longer than a beginning reader, but not quite ready for thick chapter books. Each novel has easy to read text, illustrations, but at the same time still retains the plot of the original novels.

The recommended age for this series is 7-10 years old. The series has adapted Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Love and Friendship. You can buy them individually at ~$7 a paperback (hardcover is ~$12 per book) or in a set of all seven in paperback form (plus a journal) for ~$27.

Emma is the story of a girl who has been mistress of her house and doted on by her father. After her governess marries (a match she believes she put together) she becomes bored and intends on trying her hand at matchmaking. She pygmalions her new acquaintance, Harriet Smith, and plans to set her up with the new minister. Things do not go according to plan as her matches do not take hold and her “creation” takes a life of her own.

While I enjoyed the Northanger Abbey review, I loved this adaption of Emma. It was done a little different with it starting off with a breakdown of the characters, a who’s who of everyone.

The book easily captures the attention of the reader as it leans in to the already comedic tones of Emma. The illustrations were also well done, no complaints of the men’s outfits here.

I really enjoyed it, and I think the 7 year old who I purchased it for will love it as well. If you are looking for Jane Austen books for elementary schooled children in your life, then I definitely recommend giving this series a read.

For more Jane Austen Children’s Stories, go to Northanger Abbey

For more Jane Austen children’s books, go to Jane Austen (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

For more on Emma book adaptations, go to Emma Manga

For more on Emma, go to Lean on Me: Austentatious (2015)

Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen Children’s Stories #5) by Jane Austen, adapted by Gemma Barder

If you’ve been following me, you know that I love to brainwash share my love of Jane Austen with my nieces and my friends’ children.

So any time I spot a children’s book that has to do with Jane Austen, I try and purchase it to gift to them and hopefully influence spark a love of Jane Austen in them.

One day I was on Amazon when this Jane Austen Children’s Stories series came across my book recommendations. This series takes the text of Jane Austen and adapts it for children who are reading on their own and want something longer than a beginning reader, but not quite ready for a thick chapter books. Each novel has easy to read text, illustrations, but at the same time still retain the plot of the original novels.

The recommended age for this series is 7-10 years old. The series has adapted Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Love and Friendship. You can buy them individually at ~$7 a paperback (hardcover is ~$12 per book) or in a set of all seven in paperback form (plus a journal) for ~$27.

Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen’s books to be written and is a parody of gothic novels and a satire on society. In the story Catherine Morland is a minister’s daughter who loves to read and has an overactive imagination. She is asked to accompany family friends to Bath and while there her life becomes a bit like a novel as she meets the mysterious Tilney family, and the. delightful and handsome Mr. Tilney. She also has another less moral man vying for her affections, Mr. Thorpe. She is later given an opportunity to stay with the Tilneys in their home, Northanger Abbey, and while there wonders if there is a dark secret on the premises. Catherine begins investigating but is there really a mystery or has her overactive imagination just struck again?

I thought the adaption was very well done as it reminded me a lot of the Great Illustrated Classics series I used to read when I was a child, but geared for a slightly younger age. They kept the plot of the book, but removed some of the language or plot points that would sail over a elementary aged child’s head.

I also enjoyed the illustrations, well…except for the men’s outfits, they were not accurate.

I love the way they drew General Tilney. Look how sour he is, there is no doubt that General Tilney is an unpleasant man. Just look at his face.

I really enjoyed it, and I’m hoping my 10 year old cousin, who I purchased it for, will love it as well (fingers crossed). If you are looking for Jane Austen for an elementary schooled child in your life, then I definitely recommend giving this series a read.

For more Jane Austen children’s books, go to Jane Austen (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

For more on Northanger Abbey book adaptations, go to Jane in Love

For more on Northanger Abbey, go to What’s a Girl To Do When Your Parents Won’t Allow You to Live Your Gothic Dreams?