Like Water for Chocolate

“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)

Synopsis and Review

“Like Water For Chocolate”: boiling over with recipes and passion

First published in 1989, “Like Water For Chocolate” was the number one bestseller in Mexico for almost two years, and subsequently became a bestseller around the world. It is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness and bittersweet wit that relates the bizarre story 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 in desperation he marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next 22 years, Tita and Pedro circle each other in an all-consuming passion expressed only through the food Tita cooks for Pedro and her family.

Most of the members of the Book Club liked the story and found it an easy read. They found it evocative, sensuous and voluptuous. Some liked the presence of the recipes scattered throughout the text. They even made them feel like cooking! Others found that they got in the way of the narrative and would skip them, until they gradually saw the connection between the food and the passion. Members liked the original characters in the story and their complex relationships. Some liked the magical dimension, which they felt created a cross over between reality and illusion. Most members liked the style of the writing, though one member disliked it intensely finding it too melodramatic and that it read like a bad romantic novel. The book averaged 7 out of 10.

The theme this season is “From Book To Film”. The film adaptation was directed by Alfonso Arau and based on a screenplay written by Laura Esquivel. It won 10 “Los Arieles” (Mexico’s highest award for cinematic achievement) including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. Everyone liked the film, finding it the closest adaptation of a book they had ever seen. Some of the characters came more to life to them after seeing the film, like Tita’s mother, though a few found that the character of John was not well portrayed in the film. One member advised just watching the film and forgetting the book. But then you wouldn’t get to know the significance of the expression ‘like water for hot chocolate’ (cf. page 138) and a few other subtleties that cannot be captured on film!

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 4 – “From Book To Film” (Sep 2006 – Jan 2007)

“Tsotsi” by Athol Fugard (South Africa) *
“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)
“Oscar and Lucinda” by Peter Carey (Australia)
“The Lover” by Marguerite Duras (France)
“City of God” by Paulo Lins (Brazil)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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