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Review: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel


Like Water for Chocolate by Lasura Esquivel

Since discovering I’ve read a rather paltry ten percent of the alleged 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, I’ve been on something of a one-woman mission to tick off as many as I can before the decade is out. And while I’ve been alternating between a title from the list and some of my non-fiction favourites, having a bibliography of books to choose from has reminded me how much I loved (and, at times loathed) reading my way through the BBC Big Read.

Were it not for setting myself the challenge to complete the BBC Big Read, I would never have taken the time to read what have since become some of my very favourite books, and in setting myself a new task I hope to unearth many more bookish gems as I tick the remaining 900-odd books from the literary list. And while a number of the books are ones I’ve heard of but not yet read, many are books that haven’t previously been on my radar. And Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is one such book.

It was a windy Saturday night the week before last that I found myself scouring the shelves of Gertrude & Alice with the brick-sized 1001 Books to Read Before You Die book in one hand, trying to find a tome to while away the rest of the night with. On finding Like Water for Chocolate, I was recommended it by one of the bookselling baristas, and so quickly settled down in one of the armchairs with a mug of hot chocolate to begin the tale of Mexican magic.

Quite unlike anything I’ve read before, Like Water for Chocolate follows the story of a young girl named Tita, who longs for her lover, Pedro, but is forbidden from pursuing him because of her mother’s upholding of the family tradition which states that the youngest daughter cannot marry, but instead must take care of her mother until she dies. Subsequently Tita begins to express herself the only way she is able to; through her cooking. When Pedro later becomes betrothed to her elder sister, Tita’s life becomes rich with resentment and frustration, and so she turns to the traditional recipes that form the tapestry of her family history to help her navigate her heartache.

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Structured into twelve chapters, each of which are represented by a recipe, Like Water for Chocolate is a story that reads almost like a folk- or fairy-tale. Abundant in magical realism of the emotional variety, with tales of ghosts and the physical manifestations of internal passions, Esquivel’s much-loved book is an enchanting and captivating read, perfect for anyone with a penchant for food, for words and for magic.

About Like Water for Chocolate

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, so that 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.

About Laura Esquivel

A teacher by trade, Laura Esquivel gained international attention with Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies and The Law of Love. In both books she manages to incorporate her teaching abilities by giving her readers lessons about life. During an on-line Salon interview with Joan Smith, she said, “As a teacher I realize that what one learns in school doesn’t serve for very much at all, that the only thing one can really learn is self understanding and this is something that can’t be taught.” With the intensity of a committed teacher incorporating glitzy stunts into the curriculum to get the attention of her students, Esquivel took a bold step when she incorporated multimedia in The Law of Love by combining her science fiction, new age, and spiritual story with a CD of arias by Puccini and Mexican danzones, and forty-eight pages of illustrations by a Spanish artist.

2 comments on “Review: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel”

    1. I definitely think it’s a book that you need to give a bit of time to get into! And thanks so much for your kind words about my blog Lisa xo

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