Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate defies categorization, as you might guess from the subtitle: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies.
Each of the 12 installments is about some specific event and features a related recipe.
Part romance, part social criticism, and part historical novel, the story feels like a fairy tale. As in fairy tales, the focus is on the story, not on why the story is important.
The story is about Tita De la Garza, who is literally born in a kitchen on a ranch in Mexico around the turn of the 20th century. As she grows older, Tita becomes a culinary artist in a time when cooking was backbreaking labor.
As a teenager, Tita wants to marry Pedro, a neighbor boy. Mama Elena (Tita’s real mother, though she acts like a wicked stepmother) insists Tita, as the youngest daughter, remain unmarried and care for her in her old age. So, Pedro is wedded to Tita’s older sister.
At the wedding (for which Tita has to make the wedding cake), Pedro tells Tita he only married Rosura so he could stay close to her.
If Esquivel’s unusual novel doesn’t tickle your fancy, it will certainly make you appreciate your microwave.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Carol Christensen and Thomas Christensen, trans.
Doubleday. ©1992. 245 p.
1993 bestseller #9; my grade: B+
©2020 Linda G. Aragoni
Ex-soldier Arnold Furze has spent five years trying to bring Doomsday, a hillside farm, back to productivity.
Arnold falls for the pretty daughter of one of his milk customers in the cheap residential development below his farm.
Doomsday by Warwick Deeping
Alfred A Knopf, 1927, 367 pp. 1927Bestseller #3 My grade B+.
Mary Viner is impressed by the sexy farmer, but turned off at the thought of being a farmer’s wife.
Mary debunks, heads for bright lights. Within a few months, she marries a wealthy financier with the personality of a fence post.
Arnold marries a farmer’s daughter. Their happy marriage is ended by a speeding automobile.
When Mary’s husband commits suicide over his financial failures, she returns to her late parents’ home.
In a standard romance, widow and widower would find each other again and live happily every after, but Warwick Deeping is no standard romance novelist.
Arnold and Mary both have a lot of maturing to do before either can think of happiness.
Deeping’s novel takes its name from the 1086 record of English land holdings called the Domesday, or Doomsday, book. The land is central to the novel.
Arnold and Mary, respectively, represent the war between enduring values and modernity. The split focus keeps Doomsday from being a great novel, but it doesn’t keep it from being fine entertainment.
© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni
Needing a housekeeper for himself and his five grown sons, widowed farmer Benjamin Geaiter hires a young woman he sees scrubbing a doorstep: He’s impressed by her muscular arms.
Nancy’s cooking and housekeeping skills soon have the sons vying for her favor. When she becomes pregnant, Benjamin confesses he’s the father.
The farm is the center of the Geaiter’s lives. They live and die on it; they measure success by its yields. Though the boys fear their father will leave the farm to the son of his old age, they love Joseph devotedly.
Thanks to his half-brothers, when Benjamin dies, Joseph would hardly have missed his father had Nancy not married a n’er-do-well she thought she could reform through her love.
As Nancy’s fortunes fall, the brothers take Joseph in. Together they get the farm back. When Joseph wants to marry and move to the city, his brothers find a way to keep him on the farm.
H. W. Freeman describes character through behavior. His details capture individuals with photographic insight. You’ll remember bits of Joseph and His Brethren long after you’ve forgotten the plot.
Joseph and His Brethren
by H. W. Freeman
Henry Holt, 1929
My grade: B-
©2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni