Flipkart recommended this Laura Esquivel book for my wishlist because I seemed interested in magic realism. Well, I didn’t buy it then but then while brosing at a second-hand bookstore I came across it and picked it up for the bargain price of Rs 100. Well, so there are two aspects that one must consider that are unique to the book. One, the themed approach to writing and two, the concept of magic realism.
I like themed books, the kind that have a single theme running across all chapters, sort of like a spine to the book. In this case, the theme was Mexican cooking. Every chapter began with a list of ingredients for a dish and the events in that chapter somehow managed to give the entire recipe within it. Not once was there a disconnect, not once did the pace falter. Now that’s powerful writing. The plot is simple, a man not allowed to marry his loved one, marries her elder sister so that he can be around the one he loves. Various events follow, as the book spans across 3 – 4 decades and 12 chapters are 12 months of the year, each headed by a recipe. How cool is that!
The second aspect is that of magic realism of which there is plenty in the book. One particular favourite is when the cake is being prepared for the wedding, the younger sister weeps, her tears mix with the icing, and guests, upon eating I, are filled with a deep sense of longing. The way it was written, I could almost believe it to be eerily true. However, as the story progresses, in some bits, I felt that there was too much magic, as if the author was trying to force events to blend in a weird manner. At times, things were too strange to be true. I definitely recommend this book, not if you’re looking for classic magic realism; but more if you’re looking for a beautiful love story and a very unusual narrative. And of course, if you want to whip up some delicious Mexican!
Quote: “Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves; just as in the experiment, we need oxygen and a candle to help. In this case, the oxygen, for example, would come from the breath of the person you love; the candle could be any kind of food, music, caress, word, or sound that engenders the explosion that lights one of the matches.”
PS: I won’t tell you what the title of the book really means, it’s kind of fascinating. So read on…