‘Like Water For Chocolate’ By Laura Esquivel [Book Review]

like water for chocolate laura esquivel penguin books australia
Image: Penguin Books Australia

Although I had heard of this book before, it wasn’t until I saw a marked-down copy of it in a nearby bookstore that I became really intrigued by it. And since it was priced at just P99 (a little over $2), I decided to buy it.

Unlike many of the books I own, I started reading this one as soon as I got home and finished disinfecting it. It was a great decision because it hooked me immediately. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I found its telenovela-like story irresistible, especially when combined with magical realism. It uses food as a narrative device, too, so of course, my food writing fanatic self just couldn’t help but devour it.

Now here’s the tea: Tita, the youngest daughter in a family that lives in Mexico, is prohibited from marrying her love interest, Pedro, because tradition dictates that she’s supposed to take care of their tyrannical mother, Mama Elena. Worse, the man ends up tying the knot with Tita’s older sister, Rosaura. Interestingly, Pedro claims he’s only staying with this woman so he can be closer to his true love, who is actually Tita. What a mess, right?

Things get even messier as time goes by. In fact, even after Mama Elena’s death, she still bothers Tita by appearing as a ghost and telling her she’s cursed. And, of course, the drama between Tita and Pedro doesn’t simply end there. Prepare yourself for more drama!

So, what do I love about this book? First of all, I enjoyed its plot. I grew up watching telenovelas, so naturally, convoluted plots that have vengeful characters have a special place in my heart.

Kidding aside, though, I think the novel offers a lot of interesting insights into traditions and how they sometimes end up ruining the lives of people who willingly follow them and those who don’t have any choice but to do as told.

Sure, it’s messy, but at the same time, it makes me think about the fact that these things still happen regardless of how “modern” our society is. In short, even though it’s exaggerated, these things aren’t new at all.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that it has some universal truth to it. Though I am not from Mexico, I can clearly relate to some parts of it, especially those that depict familial relations. Aren’t families dramatic by nature? Especially extended ones, yes, like what we usually have here in the Philippines!

Most importantly, I just found it so magical, especially the part where Tita’s emotions affect her cooking. It’s such an interesting way to show how a person truly feels — by showing what kind of food she creates and how such dishes affect those who consume them. I also enjoyed the parts with the descriptions of food.

Overall, I think it’s a very rich novel, and it makes for an exciting and dramatic read. I think people can also learn a thing or two about love, family, and traditions here, so plus points.

But of course, I won’t deny the fact that the book contains some parts that are just hard to read. Some parts depict abuse and violence, and, while reading it, there were moments when I simply thought things were too much.

Yet, I soldiered on and finished it. I guess I just love drama.

Leave a Reply