Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas


THE HACIENDA has been on my to-read list ever since I learned of its existence. As someone who is a huge fan of old skool gothic novels, this sounded like it was going to be everything I loved about the genre, infused with Mexican history and culture.

Beatriz's father was killed as a traitor during the overthrowing of the Mexican government. After that, she and her mother were left at the mercy of distant relatives, who resented their presence and treated Beatriz cruelly for being too dark. When she meets Rodolfo and he proposes marriage, it seems like a dream come true: he has the fair good looks of the upper-class and runs an agave plantation that is used to make pulque. San Isidro is so massive that there is plenty of room to send for her mother and have the two of them live happily ever after.

But pretty soon it becomes obvious that a traditional ending is not in the cards. Beatriz sees and hears what appear to be apparitions and there is a darkness, a coldness, that runs through the house. Her new sister in law, Juana, does not appear to care for her, and there are terrible rumors about her husband, Rodolfo. The only one who can help her is a priest named Andres, but he has secrets as well. If Beatriz is unable to fix what is wrong with the hacienda, her life might be in terrible danger. But so might be everyone else's, too.

So this was really good. The writing was beautiful and spare and I thought the atmosphere was amazing. Cañas did a great job staying true to the classic gothic formula, and there were scenes in it that scared the shit out of me. I liked all the characters I was supposed to like and hated all the characters I was supposed to hate. The ending was fantastic, too. My only qualm was that the characterization was a little bland. I guess I was hoping for more nuance from some of the characters. Beatriz and Andres felt pretty interchangeable as narrators. It sure was great for a debut, though, and I honestly thought it was a lot better than MEXICAN GOTHIC (it's weird that they're being compared so much because they have totally different writing styles and HACIENDA runs circles around MG, in my opinion).

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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