Arts, Venue

A book that makes me happy: Like Water for Hot Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This is a book that once opened wraps its pages around me. My copy is old and battered and borrowed from my mum, but the vibrancy of the words has never faded. It’s the story of Tita, a young woman in a large family on the De La Garza ranch during revolutionary Mexico. She, the youngest daughter, is consigned to a life of celibacy and misery caring for the tyrannical Mama Elena. However, she falls in love with Pedro, but he is forced to marry her sister. What I love about this book and the reasons it never fails to bring me happiness is the sensuality and the magic with which Esquivel tells the story. Each chapter, originally written as a monthly serial, is delivered on the back of a recipe; Quail in Rose Petal Sauce, Beans with Chile and Chabela Wedding Cake. Imagine the magic of being able to smell and taste andswallow the ingredients that Tita is using, it feels as though the novel itself is digested like a meal, leaving me more satisfied than any other book I have read before, or since, for that matter.

There is a special kind of magic in this story; the recipes that Tita prepares sustains the love she shares with Pedro, despite their separation by Mama Elena. The Chabela Wedding Cake that Tita pours her heart into and bakes for his wedding to her own sister, Rosaura, is so powerful that it makes all the guests burst into tears upon their first bite. This magical realism that Esquivel uses pulls me in as a reader and I am hungry for the drama to unfold. Books that make you happy are rarely happy books themselves. There is a large mouthful of heartbreak and sadness in Like Water For Hot Chocolate. The rich intensity of Esquivel’s story however, warms the reader inside in a way that can only be achieved through this immersive pain.

The ending of the book, which I shall not spoil, triggers a climax of all the themes running concurrently throughout the story; family, romance, hunger and political turmoil. It left me exhausted yet with room for more


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Elif Soyler

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August 2021
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