November 9, 2020

Abbreviations #109: A Deadly Education, Mexican Gothic + Rebecca

[A disclaimer: Prior to reading my thoughts on A Deadly Education, please check out this article regarding the controversy around this novel post-publication due to criticism of Novik’s portrayal of cultures and racial qualities. A lot of valid points were made by other readers, and I want to acknowledge that.]

A Deadly Education
is the first book in Naomi Novik’s new series The Scholomance, and it centers around Galadriel (El for short) and a year in her life as a student at the Scholomance. It sounds pretty straightforward and likely would be save for three things: 1) your education is in your own hands, 2) the school is actively filled with things that may try to kill you and 3) you never know if the other students have it out for you or not. A Deadly Education is so odd in that it feels like a modern day slice of life story with a magical bent & a dark undertone (and that in itself makes this feel like an anime). It starts off very slow, and readers will find that a lot of information is thrown their way all at once. Everything about the reading experience is a super slow burn — getting interested in the character(s) and their lives, understanding the Scholomance (to an extent) and getting to the heart of the plot. It took about two thirds of the story before I was actually invested, and it was the sprinklings of humor and sarcasm, as well the darkly macabre twists along the way that did help me keep reading whenever I was tempted to set it down. In the end, I thought A Deadly Education was good, though it didn’t quite live up to my expectations for it. While it does feel like there is potential for this story to develop further as the series goes on, I’m still on the fence about whether to pick up the next book.

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) was published September 29, 2020 by Del Rey.
I read a bound manuscript sent to me by a friend.

I can fully admit that I picked up Mexican Gothic for two specific reasons: 1) I kept seeing it everywhere online when it first came out and 2) my friend Kristin read and loved it. I kept it on my TBR shelf for a few months until the spooky season (AKA October, at least in my mind) hit, which is when I finally decided to read it since I felt so strongly that it would be perfect for this time of year. And it was! Mexican Gothic has a simple premise: Noemí receives a letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be helped, and so Noemí heads to High Place, an isolated home in the Mexican countryside, in order to see for herself what the truth is behind her cousin’s frantic message. Noemí is clever and unafraid and determined to do right by her cousin, but will she be able to escape High Place after she uncovers its dangerous secrets? While I do make Mexican Gothic sound very dramatic and high stakes, it’s important to know that the entire first half of this novel is roughly paced. It was so slow, and I personally struggled in staying interested in what was happening (which really felt like nothing at all for a good chunk). But things definitely take a turn for the horrific, and I was eventually impressed by how Moreno-Garcia succeeded in telling a slow burn, terrifically messed up gothic horror story that had me racing to the end to find out if Noemí would survive. While Mexican Gothic certainly isn’t going to be a book for everyone (and please, check out my friend Bethany’s review as she lists out content warnings in detail), it did wind up being a good spooky season read and a rather solid first experience with Moreno-Garcia’s storytelling style.

Mexican Gothic was published on June 30, 2020 by Del Rey.

is a classic I’d meant to read for some time, especially after seeing praise for it from so many online friends. I picked it up on a whim in October and, overall, I liked it. Before we get further into my thoughts, here’s a quick synopsis of the tale if you happen to be unfamiliar with it. This classic penned by Daphne du Maurier follows a nameless heroine who has a whirlwind romance with Maxim de Winter that culminates with their return to his country estate, Manderley. As our heroine attempts to find her footing in her new life, she has to contend with the lingering memory of Rebecca (the first Mrs. de Winter), the oppressive silences and mystery blanketing the house and the secrets that might be the key to figuring out what really happened in the past. The truth is that I’m a little disappointed I didn’t wind up loving this one as much as I expected to. I did appreciate the narrative style, including the lengthy descriptions and rather imaginative internal monologues that appear here and there. Both contributed well to the rather eerie, unsettling emotional atmosphere that permeated the story. But I overall couldn’t help feeling rather critical of the plot (including the turns it takes) and the characters, and that personally just wasn’t the reading experience I was looking for. In the end, it was definitely interesting to finally pick up and read a classic I’d heard so much about. Unfortunately, Rebecca just ended up not being one of my personal favorites.

Rebecca was published in August 1938. The edition I read was published by Virago Press.


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