Emily O's Reviews > Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
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Sep 24, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: women-authors, people-of-color
Read from June 12 to 13, 2011

Have you ever finished a book and thought "Man, this is going to be hard to review?" Because that's the first thing I thought when I finished this little book by Laura Esquivel. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments With Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies is a book that really left me conflicted. There were things about it that I absolutely loved, and things about it that made me very angry. The only way I can think to write this review is to explain what I found good and bad, and let you all come to your own conclusions.

First, let's start with the good things. I loved the way this book was written. Like Water for Chocolate reads like a folktale, and a fun one at that. Some people's reviews that I've read found the magical realism trite or annoying, but I found it really endearing. The book managed to be an easy, quick read without sacrificing quality. Now, I cannot review this book without talking about the recipes. The book is split up into monthly installments, and each month has a recipe that Tita makes that ties the story together. The recipe is given at the beginning of each monthly chapter, and the instructions for preparation are woven into the story. Now, I'm a huge fan of cooking, so I found this idea to be really great. Since so much of the story takes place around and hinges on food, putting the recipes in the book makes perfect sense. I loved the way that the preparation instructions were included in the action of the story. Some people seem to find it gimmicky, but I thought it was a fun little addition to a book already filled with the tastes and smells of good Mexican cooking.

Now, for the things that troubled me. First of all, I have to admit that even though I'm a huge lover of all things fairy-tale and myth, I do not like the "love at first sight" narrative. It's not that I'm not a romantic, but I feel that real love is something that is built up from a knowledge of a person's character and personality, not something that magically happens when you see someone from across the room. As for Tita's beloved, Pedro, I honestly didn't like him. He spent the entire book being selfish, immature, and whiny. I have no idea what Tita saw in him. While this book started out with that "love at first sight" narrative, there is a point that it has the chance to go away from that narrative and treat love in a realistic and touching manner. Honestly, that was the ending I was hoping for, so I was pretty well disappointed with how the book actually ended. For me at least, the ending was the worst part of the book. I feel like it kept the book from really having any particular meaning or significance, and instead just avoided any difficulty and wrapped up as quickly and neatly as possible. It just wasn't satisfying.

There were also plot elements that I found really disturbing. There are some *spoilers* in the following paragraph. At one point Pedro completely ignores all concepts of consent and just assumes that Tita wants to have sex with him, even though she has denied him repeatedly because he is married to her sister and she is promised to someone else. Does he care about this? No. Is this seen as a problem in the book? No, of course not. As soon as Pedro grabs her and pulls her into a room, Tita magically forgets all of her previous objections, and it's just seen as more proof that they need to be together. Honestly, I find that to be pretty wrong. If somebody who I had repeatedly told to leave me alone just assumed that I didn't really mean it and that I really wanted to have sex with him and decided to pull me into a dark room, I would kick him so hard he would never want to have sex again. It wouldn't matter how much I actually loved him, if he can't respect my decisions he is not worth my time. Combine that incident with the not-very-sympathetic treatment of a rape victim at another point, and you can imagine that I wasn't exactly happy with the way this book treated consent. *End spoilers here* Basically, this book had some incidents that left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and made me wonder exactly what kind of love the author is trying to promote.

Overall, the good writing and fun recipes in this book did not outweigh the problematic elements in the narrative. As much as I wanted to, I could not let myself simply enjoy this book, because problems with the plot and the ideas in the book kept jolting me out of the magical world of the narrative. This book was supposed to be a great love story, but I couldn't help feeling that Tita ended up with the wrong man. The ending of the book was completely disappointing, and only served to cement my growing discomfort. For those of you who don't mind the things that I mentioned, this book could be enjoyable. For those of you who want realistic love and respectful healthy relationships, I would suggest that you stay away from Like Water For Chocolate.

Rating: not recommended
Good things: enjoyable writing, fun format, successful magical realism
Bad things: unrealistic love, unhealthy relationships, consent problems, unsatisfying ending

For more reviews, visit my blog at http://readingwhilefemale.blogspot.com
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02/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Nicole Omg! I thought I must be the only person in all of Goodreads to see that! I was very disturbed by that scene and almost didn't finish the book. That last chapter though...the very last, dreadful chapter. It darn near ruined me. For me those, what, 15 pages(?) completely ruined the whole story. Tita was this young, fierce, independent woman. She broke free from her mother and learned to stand on her own and overcome the heart break of watching the man she loved marry her sister of all people, but she chooses to live out her life having a secret affair with him?
It just...none of it made sense? I was so invested in This character, so proud of her. And she goes and not only let's the man have his cake, but eat it too.

Janetmiller38 Yahoocom I felt the same way about the book. The character John displayed true love to Tita throughout the book, while Pedro was nothing but selfish,weak, and a coward. But she was meant to be with Pedro because she felt lust and passion for him. I don't know if the author wanted to leave me feeling this way or to just buy into the act that they were destined to be together.

Suzanne Spot on. Thank you.

Sandra Castibel I hate Pedro too, but well, she choose him.

Alanna Bradley Agree. I'm reading this with my sophomores and while I like the themes of the book (I.e. Correlating the characters to the back drop and themes of the Mexican Revolution, Gertrudis' independence, Tita's ability to stand on her own feet after Mama Elena) Pedro's character is selfish and weak. I do think it's realistic sometimes in that the person we have passion for is not always the person who is best for us. Sometimes we make decisions based on our passion and not on what's reasonable or responsible. At least that's what I'm going to say Esquival is going for.

Zainab You couldn't have described it better. I completely agree.

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