Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
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Cannonball Read V: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

By ABR | Book Reviews | August 22, 2013 | Comments ()


I saw the movie Like Water for Chocolate years ago, so I knew the story before reading the book. Even so, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the book.

The novel takes place in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. It is divided into 12 chapters, each representing a month, a recipe and a significant event in the life of Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena De la Garza. Mama Elena is like a Disney villainess - hypocritical, sadistic, abusive and vain. According to tradition Tita cannot marry but must take care of Mama Elena. For generations no one questioned the tradition but then Tita meets Pedro, and he announces his intent to marry her.

Of course Mama Elena denies Pedro. Instead she offers her other daughter Rosaura, and Pedro accepts, if only to remain physically close to Tita. The rest of the novel rotates around the emotional love affair between Tita and Pedro, and their attempts to be together despite Rosaura, Pedro’s children, Mama Elena and the revolution that occasionally interrupts their lives.

But the thing that brings everyone in this novel together and ties all the stories together is food. The author uses the pleasures of food, meal preparation and eating a meal as metaphors for love and life and passion. Tita was literally born in the kitchen so she has always been “wrapped up in the delights of food.” She finds comfort, inspiration, refuge and confidence in the kitchen. And through her cooking she is able to affect her family, her surroundings and her fate. Rosaura lacks Tita’s passion for cooking; her life and her relationship with Pedro is bland and unappealing.

With Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel has created a unique story that is appealing on many levels. It is a love story, a fairy tale and a cookbook. The relationship between Pedro and Tita is sad and sincere and intense. The descriptions of the food and the meals are lush and sensual. And the magical elements of the story - the potions and home remedies and old wives’ tales - add to the story’s appeal.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of ABR’s reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • emmalita

    I saw and loved the movie. I have never been able to bring myself to read the book, but now I'll give it another go.

  • Bedewcrock

    My Spanish teacher showed us the movie but since we attended a Catholic school he had to edit out all the risque parts.

    The whole class loved the movie but were so confused in the end. All anyone knew was that Tita had a match and then everyone died. I'd read the book and had to stand up and explain very delicately as my Spanish teacher was staring me down about how Pedro was "overcome" etc. Very fun.

  • emmalita

    Great story. :)

  • Ruthie O

    I read this about eight or so years ago, and loved it! I know the term "magical realism" is contested, but this book has it in spades. Do you or anyone else have any recommendations for people who loved this book? I also adore Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I also adore Allende - I like Jorge Luis Borges and Jose Saramango as well.

    to veer in a completely different ethnic direction, Amy Tan's work is not as magical, but seems to reach me in the same way as those authors.

    And if you like Like Water for Chocolate the movie, I also recommend the film Eat Drink Man Woman - equally lovely, sweet, delicious.

  • Ruthie O

    No, Tan is a great suggestion! I assign lots of her essays to my students, so I tend to forget about reading her novels for pleasure. The Joy Luck Club is a great book, and I imagine her others are also great. And I'll look around for Eat Drink Man Woman. Thanks!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Now that I'm home, and going through my book list, I came across a recent read that you may also enjoy - The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine. I'm getting farther away from magical realism, but the book is an amazing blend of Arab folktales and modern life in Lebanon. I just went on Amazon to check out other books by him, and saw that Amy Tan is writing enconiums on him and his writing.

  • TraceAndM

    Try Paulo Coelho's works. I started with "By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept," and it has remained my favorite.

  • Ruthie O

    I haven't read anything by Coehlo, which is crazy, since The Alchemist was one of the most popular books to assign at the community college where I taught. I'll definitely download "By the River..." tonight! Thanks for the suggestion!

  • emmalita

    I really liked Louis de Bernieres, "The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts." I promise it's not porn. It is heavily influenced by Garcia Marquez.

  • Ruthie O

    Bahaha! That's a great title. I just read the description, and that book sounds RIGHT up my alley. Downloading it to my Kindle as I type. Thanks for the suggestion!

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