ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
ningerbil
ningerbil
50bookchallenge

Books 12 and 13

12. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. This meets the challenge for reading a novel set in central or South America. Really mixed views on this one. The positives are many. The writing is gorgeous, I love the style. Each chapter incorporates a recipe that is germane to the rest of the chapter. It reads like a folk tale or local legend, and you can see the colors and smell the cooking. The central character is Tita, who turns out to be the aunt of the person telling the story. Tita was born the youngest daughter to a controlling mother (and controlling is an understatement). She finds pleasure in cooking, but her talents in the kitchen go well beyond the tactile ingredients put in each dish. Her mother thwarts her desire to marry her sweetheart, and in between dishes and life events, the story follows the not-always-so-secret romance of Tita and Pedro. And here is where I have issues. Pedro shows himself to be a rash fool by accepting the mother's offer to marry Tita's older sister. Tita not only still pines for him, but even jeopardizes the new relationship that blossoms between her and a local doctor, who saves her life and treats her like a queen. I feel sorry for Tita, it's hard not to. Her domineering mother really screwed up her life. But, after finding a wonderful, generous man, Tita still carries on with the married Pedro. I guess this can be seen as something that probably happens in real life but all the same, I wanted to shake some sense into Tita. She is definitely human. Still, I do like how she finds her independence and her voice, and not just through her dishes.

13. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. This fits into the category of reading a book that was published between 1900 and 1950. Really glad I could squeeze this in because it's been on my to-read list ever since I read the sequel, Sweet Thursday. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Some of my favorite books of all time include The Pearl, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck has a gritty, spare realism, and his themes remain topical even decades later. What I loved about Cannery Row (and Sweet Thursday), though, is the gentle humor. There were times and scenarios where I was laughing out loud. Much of the story is character-driven; the reader is introduced to the canning district in Monterey, California, and its motley collection of residents. There isn't much of a plot, and the story elements don't kick in until a good third of the way through the book. But the characters are so charming and so eclectic, it's still a fascinating (and fun) read. The biggest story is the efforts of Mack, a n'er do well with a good heart and (usually) good intentions and his other assorted friends attempting to do something nice for the gentle and altruistic Doc. The reader knows disaster is coming, but what happens and the events leading to the ill-fated event are still hilarious. The book is not a comic one - there are some more serious moments (including a couple that made me wince, particularly the implied fate of Frankie). But all in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Steinbeck turns these characters - most of them types who would be portrayed in a negative way in other stories- and shows their warmth and humanity, and I couldn't help liking them.

Currently reading: A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout.
Tags: classic
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