Home » Mexico » Laura Esquivel » Como agua para chocolate: novela de entregas mensuales con recetas, amores, y remedios caseros (Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies; UK Like Water for Hot Chocolate)

Laura Esquivel: Como agua para chocolate: novela de entregas mensuales con recetas, amores, y remedios caseros (Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies; UK Like Water for Hot Chocolate)

For a Latin American book that wasn’t written by Gabriel García Márquez, this book was surprisingly successful in the English-speaking world, helped in part by the very successful film and also because of the book’s use of magic realism and its liberal dosage of sex, food and love. The novel is told in twelve installments, each one named for a different month (with its own recipe), hence the novel’s title a novel in monthly installments. As each chapter involves the preparation of the specific recipes, these are by no means arbitrary and explain, in part, the novel’s success.

The novel is about Tita de la Garza who lives in the early twentieth century. From birth, her fate has been decided – as the youngest daughter, she will remain single and look after her mother. However, she falls in love with Pedro and he comes to ask for her hand. However, Tita’s mother refuses and he reluctantly agrees to marry Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, primarily to remain close to Tita. The newlyweds live with the family so Tita does continue to see Pedro and uses her culinary skills (which her sister lacks) to seduce Pedro. Pedro and Rosaura, however, leave the ranch for Texas, at the instigation of Tita’s mother who is worried by the close liaison between Tita and Pedro. Rosaura’s son, whom Tita had cared for, dies but she does have a daughter, Esperanza. After a fight between Tita and her mother, the mother tries to have Tita committed for insanity and she goes to a local asylum where an American doctor looks after her (helped by the ghost of his long-dead grandmother) and nurses her back to health. When she returns home to look after her mother, who has been hurt following a raid by soldiers, the mother rejects her and subsequently dies. When Rosaura and Pedro return, Tita and Pedro start an affair. Finally Rosaura dies and Esperanza, freed from the chore of looking after her mother, is free to marry the doctor’s son, while Pedro and Tita are free to marry though, of course, Esquivel gives us a surprise and magic realist ending.

Esquivel’s book is, of course, set firmly in the magic realism tradition of Latin America. It is also determinedly a woman’s novel, telling us very much how it is the women that are oppressed and how food and sex are part of the oppression but part of the liberation. Esquivel tells a very clever story and she tells it very well and it is not difficult to see why this novel had so much success, both because of the storyline and the clever use of genuine recipes to advance the plot.

Publishing history

First published by Editorial Planeta Mexicana in 1989
First English translation by Doubleday in 1991