Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate is a thrilling, magical and heartwarming novel that has taken pride of place as my book of the month. A friend suggested it after a lecture on the Mexican Revolution, as the novel is set in the period. It’s perfect for history lovers and those interested in Hispanic culture, but also for anyone who loves a romance.
The novel is unique in the sense that each chapter is based on a month from a period of twenty-two years. Each month starts off with a recipe that in some way imitates what will happen in the chapter — for example with a wedding cake. The narrative follows the lives of a family on a ranch in Mexico, centring around Tita and her love for Pedro, who has to marry her sister. Pedro and Tita cannot marry because Mexican tradition dictates that the youngest daughter must care for her mother.
The reader’s heart aches for their forbidden romance and the novel is full of twists and turns
There are heartwarming moments, made all the more beautiful by recipes for Mexican comfort food, surrounding Tita’s relationship with chef Nacha which expresses the centrality of food as a way that Mexican woman have expressed creativity and love throughout history. There are also tender moments full of sexual tension between Tita and Pedro. The reader’s heart aches for their forbidden romance and the novel is full of twists and turns.
A significantly unique element to Like Water for Chocolate is the influence of magical realism. The effects of the food cooked by Tita and Nacha express how badly the universe wants Pedro and Tita to be together and there are crazy moments of magic, for example in the relations between Gertrudis and one of Pancho Villa’s men. There are also tragic moments and the novel is heart-breaking, such as when Tita bonds with the child of Pedro and her sister Rosaura only to be separated from them, and the many times when Pedro and Tita are kept apart.
Like Water for Chocolate is such a powerful novel, intensely rich with emotion and made more beautiful by the unique structure of storytelling through recipes. It is perfect for anyone who loves romance, history and magic.