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

Catherine Morland’s Viewing List

Happy Friday the 13th! I don’t know if you have any plans, but as for me I’m going to spend my evening with pizza and horror films.

Speaking of Horror films I have been getting ready trying to pick out which ones I’ll use for Horrorfest X, my yearly Halloween countdown, but I’ve also been going through old posts and looking at the ones from the original Horrorfest, and thinking some of these movies Catherine Morland would love as they are full of gothic-y goodness.

Unfortunately, while they occasionally have Austen tendencies and can go on my Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans list, like Rebecca, the ones I’m thinking of are more like Catherine Morland’s Reading Listthey don’t have anything to do with Jane Austen but are gothic stories Catherine would love.

Hmm…

Then I thought, why not start a new series, a list of only the good Gothic like horror films for the other Catherine Morland/Henry Tilney spooky people out there? It will only contain movies that I strongly recommend-none of the films that are poorly written or have a lot of issues. And unlike my other lists, this will be a one stop list for people looking for recommendations, while the original posts will only be done during Horrorfest.

So films on this list are going to be 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 specifically why it belongs on this list. I have 9 years of films I have watched/reviewed for Horrorfest, but I’m not sure how many of those will be on her. For now I’m going to put on the ones I have recently re-edited, and then will be adding more constantly. If you are looking for recommendations, be sure to check back for more:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Frankenstein (1931)

The Mummy (1932)

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Rebecca (1940)

Return of the Vampire (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Laura (1944)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

The Bad Seed (1956)

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Psycho (1960)

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Northanger Abbey (1987)

Heathers (1988)

The Addams Family (1991)

Dead Again (1991)

The Addams Family Values (1993)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)

The Corpse Bride (2005)

Northanger Abbey (2007)

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009)

The Turn of the Screw (2009)

The Moonstone (2016)

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

Jane Austen Birthday Party: Prize Three

Party time!

So I have been planning my Jane Austen 29th birthday party for a few years, and I did not let the Coronavirus get in the way. It was yesterday and so much fun!

So I had planned to do three games at the party. They actually changed from what I originally planned, but I’ll talk more about that later. When you have games then you need prizes! In a previous post I shared one of the prizes being a copy of Persuasion, a tea infuser which I added an anchor charm to, a tin of Harney and Sons tea, and a thimble with the HMS Cutty Sark on it.

The second prize was a copy of Pride and Prejudice, Litographs Pride and Prejudice Tattoos, and a embroidered tea towel.

For the third prize I decided to focus on my favorite novel, Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey is such an amazing novel and has been ignored for far too long. Hopefully the person who wins this will read it and fall in love with Henry Tilney.

For this prize I have a copy of Northanger Abbey, a gothically ghoulish “Squad Ghouls” tote bag from Forever 21 (fits with the type of books Catherine liked to read), a embroidered tea towel, and a tin of Harney and Sons. I love embroidery, don’t you? It is such a beautiful art that doesn’t get as much love as it deserves.

Like I have said before, I just don’t understand why people always seem to hate it, or have their character hate it to show they are “modern” or “intelligent”. Why do we value other artwork but not embroidery? Embroidery is just as artistic as painting, drawing, sewing, etc. I hope people start valuing it and seeing it for the talent it is. Here is everything all together:

This whole bag came out to $7.25: Northanger Abbey book $0.49, Forever 21 “Squad Ghouls” Tote Bage $3, Flour Sack Dishtowel $2.50, and Black & Blue Thread $1.26

I’ve been having so much fun sharing all these things with you, and even though the party has ended I will be continuing to share all my other party plans!

For more of my Jane Austen Birthday plans, go to Jane Austen Birthday: Prize One

For more Jane Austen parties, go to Jane Austen Birthday: Invitations

For more on Northanger Abbey, go to Northanger Abbey Audiobook Narrated by Anna Massey

Catherine Morland’s Reading List: The Night Gardener

What is Catherine Morland’s Reading ListThe idea came mostly from the fact that I am a huge Gothic fiction/mystery fan. Before I met Jane Austen I devoured books, (and I still do), that I know, if Catherine Morland was real and alive, she would be reading or interested in reading.

It started with one review, and then before I knew it I had a list of thirty I was planning on reviewing. What can I say, other than:

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

So I have been wanting to read this book FOREVER. But every time I would check it out, I wouldn’t get a chance-I’d have too many books checked out, things happened, I’m too busy, etc-and I would have to return it.

Finally the stars aligned and I was able to read it. The book is written for middle schoolers and a quick read-made even quicker by the fact that as soon as I started reading it, it sucked me in.

I can’t put the book down

The book takes place during the Irish Potato Famine and two siblings emigrate from Ireland to England to work at a country estate: Kip and Molly. Molly is older and made the arrangements to work, job they are in dire need of as their parents are dead (something Molly has kept hidden from Kip). Molly uses stories to distract and cheer Kip, who is gifted with a green thumb, but suffers from lame leg.

As they travel to the Windsor manor they get stopped by a gypsy fortune teller who tells them the house they are going to is haunted.

Yes, years ago when the current Master Windsor was a boy something killed his family, he was the only one to survive, escaping to family in London. It was very mysterious and strange, and many believe it to be ghosts, a monster, or something.

Kip starts wondering if there is truth to the tales, but Molly ignores it. It can’t be true, she needs it to be not be true as they need these jobs.

Please, oh please! from Death Comes to Pemberley

When they get there, the house is nothing like Molly thought it would be. The house is beautiful but dirty and not kept up at all-things look like they haven’t been washed in forever, there is dust and dirt everywhere, etc.

Haunted house!

There is also a giant, black, gnarled, tree that is connected to the house, as if it grew into it or the house was built into the tree. Looking at it, it makes both Molly and Kip uncomfortable-although they are not sure why.

The family is very unusual, cold, and greedy. Mr. Windsor stutters, has no gumption, and is a pale dark haired man who is constantly trying to get money. He has a secret study that no one is allowed to enter. Constance is cold and harsh toward the “help” as she calls them, in fact she won’t let Kip in the house as her family might catch what he has and become cripples too (her word). She was used to the fine life in London and misses it. She has a ton of rings on her fingers and always seems to be getting more somehow. Very odd as the Windsor family complains about a lack of funds.

Hmm…

The son Alistair is greedy boy who is always eating candy and is cruel to his sister. But where does he get this candy from. He has dark hair like his father and mother.

Penny is the youngest and is greedy for stories and attention, but otherwise is a good child. She is enthralled with Molly’s copper hair, something she used to have. Molly thinks that is odd, even more so when she sees a portrait of them on the wall-all with bright skin, bright colored hair-nothing like the dour, dark haired, and ghostly pale skin they have now.

Hmm…

Kip starts working in the yard and loves growing things, but still feels unease about that tree. But there are things down in the yard he did not do. Things planted. But who could be doing that?

Hmm…

The longer they stay there the harder it is to leave. At night they have bad dreams and hear something stalking in the night. Penny tells Molly of a night man in the house clomping through and going outside. Molly doesn’t believe her…at first, but then one night, she is sneaking her brother into the house and the two see a man-a ghostly, creepy, scary man who works on the yard but espechially with the dark and disturbing tree.

Creepy…

Then Molly discovers a secret. The tree in the house grants you a wish of your heart-but once given it is impossible to stop going back. Constance Windsor had a ring that was worth nothing, but given before Mr. Windsor made money. He sold it when they needed funds and the tree gave her a copy, and she can’t stop trying to get it back.

Alistair’s favorite memory was when his father and him spent the day together and went to a candy store. He can’t stop getting or eating candy, trying to relive the memory. Penny has special books that are stories about her. For Molly she gets letters from her parents, letters that tell of the same stories she has been feeding her brother.

Wow!

But Molly quickly learns to be careful for what you wish for as the price might be more than you want to pay. She too finds herself becoming bound to the tree, her copper hair and imaginative self being sucked away as she waits for more letters. Will Molly and Kip be able to save themselves and the Windsor family? Or will they meet their end?

Hmmm…

I LOVED this book. It was so spooky and reminded me of other Gothic tales I grew up reading. I espechially loved the imagery of the tree feeding on them, stealing their souls essentially, taking from them and they know it is feeding off them-but they can’t stop it.

Creepy…

It was extremely spooky and creepy-just how I like it.

For more from Catherine Morland’s Reading List, go to Secrets of the Heart

For more Gothic Fiction, go to House of Salt and Sorrows