Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

 

likewater

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Like Water for Chocolate:  A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies 
By Laura Esquivel
Translators: Thomas Christensen, Carol Christensen
Publisher: Anchor
ISBN13: 9780385420174
Genre: Magical Realism

Synopsis:

Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.

The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, “Like Water For Chocolate” is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next twenty-two years, Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.


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This was a buddy read with Kim at Traveling, Gladly Beyond. Being that this was a shorter title, we opted to forgo the usual 5 question format you see in buddy reads here on the blog and simply link up so you can compare our thoughts. You can find Kim’s review here

2018 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt: A book by author of a different ethnicity than you

Like Water for Chocolate was ultimately selected after Kim and I discussed wanting to read more translated titles. She was kind enough to produce a nice list of potential books, and this was our final choice. It is a title many have probably encountered if not in books in film. It has been on the bestseller lists in both Mexico and America, and the film has earned several awards. It was an easy selection.

Told through twelve monthly installments that each feature a new recipe, Esquivel delivers a unique narrative of Tita, a young woman forbidden to marry, but passionately in love. When her heart’s interest, Pedro is denied her hand by her mother, he agrees to marry her sister as a means of remaining close to her. But when Tita’s emotions began to carry over into her cooking, something magical happens and a series of side effects ranging from unbridled passion to deep sorrow surface within those who consume her food. Realizing this, Tita begins a slow seduction of Pedro through the art of cooking.

I am torn about my experience with Like Water for Chocolate and find it rather difficult to review. I can easily appreciate why this novel has made a mark, but I encountered a few barriers. Part of me enjoyed the book and another part of me knows I am not the ideal audience. So please keep both in mind here.

The biggest challenge I found lies within the characters. Initially, I liked Tita. Then I did not, then I did. And “loathing” would be an accurate description of my feelings for Pedro. This was a result of their continually bad terrible decision-making. While I respected the difficulty and heartache of their situation, I was never able to fully remove myself from my own logic and morals long enough to be “OK” with their responses and actions, and they offered no other form of distraction. It was simply one bad choice after another. And this is where my focus remained. In the end, it made for an uphill read.

Another issue (that I am learning to overcome) is that this is a love story. For the entirety of my reading life, I have struggled with them. However, with that said, the added element of Tita’s emotions literally feeding her family and a genuinely original narrative were the saving grace here. I was drawn to the incorporation of recipes into the story. It is magical realism and food! The author manages to beautifully segue meal preparation into the events as they occur and it works, giving the story a new layer of depth and facilitating a breezy, fun read carried effortlessly by the author’s fluid and spirited writing.

My final quibble would fall to the conclusion. Again, this is the result of poor actions on the character’s behalf. I found it to be disappointing and effectively solidifying of my dislike for each of them and ultimately lessening my overall rating.

But do not let my personal experience sway you away from Like Water for Chocolate. It offers a nice dose of culture through cuisine and tradition packed into an eccentric tale of passion that is incredibly easy to digest. If you enjoy a unique love story and do not mind heavily flawed protagonists, this is worth exploring.

Untitled design Served with a  tall glass of iced tea served and fresh lemon.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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43 thoughts on “Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

  1. I might give this a try at some point. I don’t mind characters making bad decisions if that is what the character is about. Plus, if I don’t like it, I can DNF it because it’s not a review book and that feels really good to be able to say. Ha ha! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yes for sure. While I did not like the characters, I enjoyed other elements such as the combination of foof and MR so I am not calling this a loss. I am still glad to have picked it up. You might enjoy it for the narration alone 🙂

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  2. I watched the film and enjoy it, even though everything was so sentimental… but Pedro IS THE WORST CHARACTER EVER. I mean she marries the sister because she’s in love with Tita? Ugh, I hated him so much lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Like Water for Chocolate is one of the books which really hooked me into magical realism. I love the demi-epistolary format and the featured recipes (though I never made any of them… and I feel like I should someday…). I understand your conflicted feelings about the characters. Tita, in general, is a challenging character, but that’s what I love about her. She’s complicated, fickle, and goes through a LOT of transformation throughout this novel. But what I love the most is how complex the relationships are. There is nothing Tita does which isn’t a reaction to the other characters.

    Have you spoken about this book to anyone with a Mexican heritage? I wonder if that might change your perspective on Tita– she’s quite traditional and fitting into a mold society expects of her.

    Do you plan on watching the film?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not spoken with anyone of Mexican heritage (although the many of my friends are of Hispanic descent and I probably should)about this one, but to be honest, I am not sure that much would alter my opinion of Tita or any of the characters. I do respect her tribulations and heartache, but I have never and probably will never find myself able to accept adultery regardless haha. It is a hang up of mine that I find impossible to look past in books.

      But like you, I did appreciate the element of magical realism and incorporation of meal prep and recipes. I found this unique approach to narration alone making this a worthwhile read.

      I am torn on whether to watch the film. Have you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally understand that there are certain things where we all draw the line with. I cannot abide physical or emotional abuse, which is one of the reasons I struggle to read and enjoy Thrillers. O_o

        I have not seen the film! I’ve heard wonderful things, though… I am not much of a film buff. Lately, I’ve been trying to read books and then shortly after watch the film to catch the changes. Your posts have actually inspired me, Danielle! Keep it up. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds interesting, Dani… even though i can totally understand your point about characters’ decision making grating against readers own morals, etc… Makes perfect sense but I have to say- this sounds proper dramatic! And a bit mad… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice review, Danielle. I have never heard of this title, but this review did give me a pretty good idea of what it was about. Love stories aren’t exactly what I hunt for, but I don’t mind a nice well-developed relationship alongside something else. The best I’ve read will be the Night Circus and it set the bar pretty high now so… anything I read after that will probably have to do just as good or better now hahah

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have wanted to read this one since I started a goodreads and signed up to my local library. And started making lists. So basically, since 2012! And yet, it’s so hard to get at the library. And now I doubt I would like it – I tend to hate books with magical realism, and also written in the Spanish/Latino tradition (it’s the writing style, usually). But I believe I’ll still try this one… And it sounds to me that I’d probably react the same about their choices. I know exactly what you mean, it’s like when you want to bash your head at a wall because of what the characters did 😀 I have also often noticed this with the Latino tradition of books and writing. Maybe it’s a cultural thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not sure if it is cultural, as I have not read enough titles that I can compare to. But I do hope to remedy that sooner than later. I actually enjoyed the other cultural elements such as the cuisine and traditions (even if I did not agree). But the characters certainly peeved me haha. I would say pass if you are not a fan of magical realism 😉

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