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Review: Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel

A friend of mine lent me this book a few months ago and I never got around to reading it.  I gave it back to her when we graduated from college, but I still wanted to read it, so I bought a copy.  It didn’t sit around for too long this time; I read it in a day.

Tita grew up in the kitchen, surrounded by her love of food.  She is overjoyed when she falls in love with a man, until she learns that as the youngest daughter, she is intended to stay home and take care of her mother – forever.  This little book, which is told in twelve chapters, each a different month of the year, with a recipe for each one, is another endearing exercise in magical realism from a Latin American storyteller.

The reader knows straight away that Tita will never be married.  This gives the entire story a bittersweet feel; we know her relationships aren’t going to succeed before they even happen.  Regardless, I did find it charming.  Tita is lovely and I grew to care for her very quickly.  Her family is very peculiar and all members have strictly defined personalities.  At first, it seems Mama Elena is a stereotypically horrible mother, but later on we learn that there is more to her story, too.

The magical realism adds a special dimension to the story.  I hadn’t expected it going in to the book.  As I’ve mentioned before, I read most books without knowing anything about them because I largely read from recommendations and generally avoid reviews or even reading the back cover.  The supernatural aspects make it clear that this isn’t real life, but they don’t take away from the universal romantic experiences that Tita endures.

The format is interesting.  This book is certainly a novel, but the fact that it is split into twelve equal chapters means that it’s easier to break down if you don’t have much time to read.  I haven’t tried any of the recipes and I’m not sure that I will, particularly given that the instructions are spread throughout each chapter and are potentially hard to follow when in a hurry.  If you were reading for a book club, however, it might be fun to have a small party around the book and have each member try a different recipe.  At least, that’s what I would do.

I would recommend this book, I think; it’s a light read, but at the same time heartfelt and moving. Buy this book on Amazon.

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8 comments to Review: Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel

  • I have read this book too and loved it. I think it’s a really different book with all the recipes and magic.

  • Meghan, I really loved this book. That magical realism is present in a lot of the Latin fiction I’ve read and enjoyed. I never made any of the recipes, either, but I remember one using rose petals, I think!

  • I love this book, it’s one of my favourites. I can’t read it when I’m hungry though. The stuffed chillis get me every time. I really like your idea of having a party and trying the different recipes – that’s something I must do in the future. Have you read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’? If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy that too. I found it similar in style if not in content.

  • I enjoyed this book, too. The author has written several others (with food/kitchen as “heart of home” being a common theme, I believe), but I haven’t read any of her other works.

  • Wow! I just found this book at the library used and picked it up. I grabbed it the other night before bed and started reading. I’m only into February but I am loving it. I also really don’t like her mom so I’ll have to keep reading to find out her story. Thanks!

  • I’m another fan. I whipped through this quick as can be! Have you seen the movie? It’s also very good.

  • What a lovely review! I’ve got this one on my wishlist AND my netflix queue now!

  • This has been on my TBR list for years and I never get around to it. Thanks for the nudge!