Author: Laura Esquivel
Publication Year: 1995 (first published in Spanish in 1989)
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Source: Borrowed from my friend Amanda to read for book club
From the cover:
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 classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef. She shares special points of her favorite preparations with listeners throughout the story.
The only reason I read this book is because my book club was going to be talking about it in September. It had never really been on my radar, though apparently it’s quite popular and was even made into a movie (which watched with a couple friends after the night we talked about it at book club). And let me tell you – I will never get back the time I wasted reading it.
Like Water for Chocolate is supposed to be this awesome romantic tale of magical realism and of families and food. Yes, I could see how some of that is true – it’s definitely a book that contains magical realism (making everyone sick at a party because she cried into the cake batter, anyone?), it definitely touches on some serious topics regarding family relationships, and food plays a major part throughout. But romance? It seriously made me want to hurl.
The premise behind the book contains this idea that the youngest daughter will not marry while her mother is alive, so that she can always be there to take care of her. (Apparently this was a real tradition at one point, as a Mexican lady in our book club told us.) I have no problem with this premise – it actually sounded quite interesting. HOWEVER. When Tita’s lover is declined her hand and then takes up Elena’s offer to marry Tita’s sister instead, and accepts? The romance should have ended there. I’m not going to say anymore on the matter, because I don’t want to “spoil” the book for anyone who might want to read it … but let’s just say that the romance which forms the central idea of the book just made me angry.
If you’re into magical realism, you might find Like Water for Chocolate interesting. It had this sort of aura about it even when the magical elements weren’t anywhere to be found that inexplicably bothered me. So I can’t honestly say that I’d recommend it for you to read. But if that’s your thing, go ahead and give it a try.