I’ve never been inspired by novels written either by South American authors or set in South America. However, Esquivel is Mexican, and as that’s very definitely part of North America, she didn’t fall far enough south for me to approach this novel with foreboding. Reading the first few pages was enough to make me realise that there’s enough originality here to inspire me to keep going.
By interweaving cooking and romance, Esquivel has definitely done something different. But while the style of the novel was original, the plot was as predictable as any Latino novel you may care to name: this is the story of Tita and the lifelong
lust (sorry) love she has for a man who she is not married to.
Now, either I’m wrong about love and it is all about sex after all, or even Nobel Laureates like Garcia Marquez are selling us a huge lie. The only character in this novel who displays what I equate with love is a doctor who not only physically rescues Tita from domestic abuse, but is the only man who treats her with courtesy, respect and tenderness.
While Tita thinks this is all very well and allows a certain fondness to develop for Dr. John, she can’t help feeling that a quick grope in the scullery with Pedro is actually what life is worth living for. This seems about as shallow as relationships can get for me, but Esquivel (and Garcia Marquez in particular) portray this as the epitome of love. So much so that Pedro ends up dying in the act, a kind of symbolic sacrifice of himself to sex.
Along the way however, Esquivel writes well and interweaves elements of magic realism into the story in very approachable ways for those who might not be ready for the full-blown (un)reality of Ben Okri or Toni Morrison. There’s a lot of symbolism throughout and, if you’re into cookery, you’re going to love the way that every one of the 12 sections opens with a recipe the preparation of which leads into the story and forms part of the narrative.
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings