I firmly believe that it is not always the reader that finds books – sometimes it is the book finds the reader. When I read (and got disappointed by) Alphabet Soup For Lovers, I was recommended Like Water for Chocolate by an acquaintance. However, I did not read the book as soon as I got a copy; instead continued to wallow in the dry pool of good books I did not feel like reading for a while until I gave up reading altogether for a bit (a bit = 2 nights). Then, it was almost as if LWFC called out to me (I can’t explain this part well; forgive me). So that’s what I read.
Genre: Magical Realism, Romance
Summary: Tita, the youngest daughter of the De La Garza family, unable to bear the smell of onions while in her mother’s womb, is born prematurely in the kitchen. The kitchen is also where she spends most of her life, and the cook Nancha practically brings her up. Tita is required as per tradition to take care of her mother until she dies. She is, therefore, forbidden to ever get married. Unfortunately, for her, when she is sixteen years old, she falls in love with Pedro. Pedro approaches Elena, Tita’s formidable mother, and asks for Tita’s hand in marriage. Elena flatly refuses, but offers the hand of her elder daughter Rosaura. Pedro promptly agrees, so that he can be near Tita. Tita, believing Pedro has betrayed her, cries so hard while preparing the wedding cake, that all the guests feel tremendously sorrowful and fall ill after eating it. Elena later sends Rosaura and Pedro away to San Antonio, as she suspects something brewing between Tita and Pedro; this is because, the dishes Tita prepares for him cause all those who eat them to grow feelings of extreme passion. Do they ever reunite?
I agree that there are some similarities between LWFC and ASFL but neither can be pronounced as better or worse. They are not comparable, similarities notwithstanding. I wouldn’t say they’re apples and oranges; more like, apples and potatoes.
As far as the prose goes, it’s too direct and not very rich. As far as magical realism goes, it lacks the subtlety so necessary for this genre. It stands out a little sorely in places. I think both of these were lost in translation, and is not the fault of the book itself. The other thing is (which could be the fault of the book), Pedro isn’t very likable. Whatever his intentions in marrying Tita’s sister, the marriage was a product of a flawed logic. He is also shown as a jealous, possessive man. Not the best guy in the world, I’d say.
Now for the good part. Each chapter starts with a recipe. The recipes are interwoven int the narrative and help move it forward quite craftily. Apart from that, what’s really important to know is this: Like Water for Chocolate is an extremely addictive book. It tugs gently at your collar, turns your chin towards it and whispers silkily, “Read me… Now.” And that’s what you do. I even sneaked it to office! And at home, I read it using a flashlight when the power was out. That’s how addictive it is.
To sum it up: LWFC isn’t the best book I’ve read. But it is a book I’d recommend. For all its flaws (and an absolutely underwhelming ending), it is a deliciously magical book. I would recommend it because I feel like talking about it. I feel like asking you what you thought about it. Let me know if you read it, will you?