Review of “Como agua para chocolate” by Laura Esquivel

Novela de Entregas Mensuales con Recetas, Amores y Remedios Caseros

This is the latest book in my Spanish reading. I don’t know if I’ll ever speak Spanish or even develop an intermediate vocabulary, but I do enjoy reading novels in their native language (i.e. Spanish). The English translation of the book was turned into a movie that I never saw, “Like Water for Chocolate.” That phrase always escaped me, until I read the book. Now I get it.

I will make my usual comments about novels written in Spanish: the authors (no exceptions so far) don’t seem to want to use subject pronouns and so it can be downright impossible to know who is speaking in a crowded room; they also don’t like to use commas, which can be very tricky for a beginner because of the use of some articles (i.e. la and las) as direct object pronouns. Comprehension depends on context, which doesn’t work so well for a beginner who is struggling with the vocabulary (I understand the grammar pretty well).

The story jumps around a lot in time and space, and I got lost a few times, partly because I took several months to read the book. The idea of monthly recipes for chapters was intriguing but I didn’t get how the recipes fit the plot; they seemed random to me, but the characters were preparing them while the action was taking place. Sometimes the menu was central; at any rate, this was a great plot idea, which kept the story alive long after it should have died. It is a simple plot that uses gimmicks (e.g. magic and jumps in the action), so that the author didn’t have to actually write a full novel. It’s more like a collection of stories with a central character. (I could be wrong there because, like I said, I took a while to read it and my Spanish is not great.)

Overall, I enjoyed the story but the ending was a massive cop-out. I’m not sure that it’s a good read for someone learning Spanish because there’s a lot of culinary vocabulary that SpanishDict was only moderately helpful with.

Just between us, I think Tita is schizophrenic and…well, you’ll have to read the book and decide how to interpret the ending for yourself.

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