Book Review: “Like Water For Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

Warning: This book review contains spoilers for “Like Water For Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel! If you’re trying to avoid spoilers, hit the back button now!

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Cover of “Like Water For Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Like Water For Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history 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 he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.”

Content Warning:

This book contains a lot of mentions of domestic abuse throughout the story, but especially in the first half. If you are sensitive to this type of content, you may want to skip this book.

Plot Development: 3 out of 5 stars

Each of the book’s twelve chapters represents a month, but the action takes place over a number of years in the actual story. The cover of the book mentions that this novel was created in monthly installments, so I believe that may be the reason the chapters are listed by the month, rather than numbers and/or other titles. Thankfully, this didn’t deter from reading the main story.

However, I do think that the recipes got a bit in the way of reading the main story overall. They all sound delicious, and I do enjoy how each of them makes an actual appearance in their associated chapters, but I do think the food descriptors and the constant cooking scenes took away from the plot’s pacing. Despite this book being rather short, the food scenes made this feel way longer than it was. They were enjoyable for visual description, and it did give the reader many opportunities to understand Tita’s background, especially with her abusive and controlling mother, but it could be better.

I also think the story itself ended very abruptly at the end, and on a rather unclear note. At first, it seemed like it was just a happy ending sex scene, but then actual flames happened and things caught on fire. It’s implied that the main protagonists died, but does this mean they burned to death while having their sex scene? I’m very confused on that part, despite rereading it several times to try to make sense of it.

Romance Development: 3 out of 5 stars

Given that the book’s plot heavily depends on how well the romance is executed, given that this is a romance novel, I thought it was decently executed for the most part. The only real qualms I have about the main romance between Pedro and Tita are the following:

1. Pedro is already married to Tita’s sister Rosaura by midway through the book. A.K.A, infidelity ensues since Tita and Pedro still try to be close to each other romantically, despite this.

For those who are not into cheating-is-the-main-romance type of plots, you will probably want to avoid this one. This is a major plot point of the book in the latter half, and its repercussions are also explored.

2.  The love triangle was not the best-executed.

If anything, the love triangle seemed to do a better job of showing why John is a better love interest for Tita. He seems like a nice guy in general (not that Pedro isn’t, but still), he’s actually single, and he and Tita don’t have the same stressed-out dance of “will they, won’t they?” that Pedro and Tita have. Given that Pedro and Tita ended up getting together at the end of the book, however, with no resolution with what happened with John, the love triangle felt wasted.

Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars

The characters were interesting to an extent. I loved Tita’s development and struggle with trying to have a life lived for herself, rather than the expectations of her family (especially her abusive mother) and the overall community she lives in. She was the most rounded, fleshed-out character overall. Unfortunately, Pedro does not have the same sort of development, and mainly just exists purely to be her love interest. Sure, he creates some drama by marrying Tita’s sister to stay close to Tita and so on, and it’s implied in the first few chapters that he struggles with the expectations of his community and family like Tita does, but it’s not as well-explored as it is for her.

All the rest of the characters, save for John, were rather flat and one-dimensional. This may be due to the plot’s pacing and heavy focus on the romance side of things, especially given that this is a romance novel, but I ended up disliking all of the other characters because they turned out to be mostly nasty (except for John, who I mentioned, earlier, was a genuinely nice person).

Overall, I’m rating this book 3 out of 5 stars!

One will be definitely intrigued by all the food-related descriptions, but if you’re not into  reading cheating-types of romances, domestic abuse, and abrupt endings, this may not be the book for you.

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