I am a little disappointed in myself for how long it actually took me to read the book I am posting about today.
My only excuse is that it was always expensive on Kindle and I have a hard time taking books seriously when they have recipes in them. I don’t know, I always expect that it will make the book maudlin. The high recommendation combined with the recipes made me think, oh yea, this one will rot my teeth for sure.
Even though it is Latin American Magical Realism, which I should have known by now is always tempered with tragedy, loss and longing. And this one was no different:
A Classic of Genre Fiction:
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
This one is always near the top of the list for classic Magical Realism. I would describe it as 100 Years of Solitude Lite. All the taste and half the fat. All the same themes, time and place, and family imbroglios without the constant cringe worthy incest, which definitely raises it in my estimation.
A young woman refused permission to marry her one true love in the world, and instead he marries her sister in order to be closer to her, and then all the mess that that creates, along with an overbearing and abusive mother with her own closet full of skeletons. Throw in some babies that she is denied, political upheaval that flirts occasionally with the plot line, some family ghosts and supernaturally charged sexual desire (that is NOT toward relatives!) along with the recipes and you have it. The only element it doesn’t share with 100 Years of Cringes is the Biblical length lifespan of the characters. People live around as long as they are supposed to. Oh yeah and there isn’t treasure hidden in the yard.
And the food part with the recipes does not make it maudlin. The protagonist’s feelings are communicated through her usually perfect cooking: her devastation, her elation, her bitterness. And she is full of it. Esquivel jerks her protagonist around enough to make plenty of recipes that don’t come out just perfect. And the ending is not satisfying to boot. Just so you all are aware.
I have two other magical realism books on the list dealing with food, The Cake Therapist and Chocolat, and I will be interested to see if food is the same vehicle for communicating feelings as it is for this one. Also, I really need to get to Borges and his Ficciones, which predates Marquez, Allende, and Esquivel.
If you love the Magical Realism genre, specifically the South American brand, you can’t miss this. I see some reviews up of people who just don’t have a taste for the random and intense plotting. Maybe the ones who not only expected this to be maudlin but wanted it to be. I didn’t want that.
So, even though it has been awhile since I have been on my magical realism bent, it’s still here and it continues to be a goal. They are still on my TBR, whether it is Northern European magical realism or the original examples of the genre. My instructor says the novel I am drafting is magical realism.
I intentionally am posting this on a Saturday because I hope people are enjoying Easter Sunday with their families.