Monthly Archives: September 2006

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Finally able to finish reading this famous novel by Laura Esquivel. I had 5 attempts in the past but I was put to sleep for some reason before getting past the 4th chapter. Its a good fictional romance that is sure to awaken the senses.
Chapters are divided into months of the year, with corresponding recipes.
Tita de la Garza is the youngest of 3 girls in a very matriarchal Mexican family. Her mother, the chief antagonist, Mama Elena imposed a family tradtion where the youngest daughter’s life is dedicated to taking care of the mother, hence marrying is not an option.

She falls in love with Pedro Muzquiz and when he asks Mama Elena for her hand in marriage, she refused and offered her other daughter, Rosaura instead. The whole novel is focused on Tita and Pedro’s struggles to keep their love.

Almost whimsical and mythical, it also celebrates home cooking. Similar to love, it has power to feed, nourish, comfort and destroy.

It has an extremely feminist theme–all male characters are not dealt with depth. Throughout the story, they are moved like pawns here and there, almost like embellishments to the strong female characters.

“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. For a moment we are dazzled by an intense emotion. A pleasant warmth grows within us, fading slowly as time goes by, until a new explosion comes along to revive it. Each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul. That fire, in short, is its food. If one doesnt find out in time what will set off these explosions, the box of matches dampens, and not a single match will ever be lighted. If that happens, the soul flees from the body and goes to wander among the deepest shades, trying in vain to find food to nourish itself, unaware that only the body is left behind, cold and defenseless, is capable of providing that food.”

Ive seen the movie adaptation of Like Water for Chocolate when I was 11, but I was too young to appreciate the highly sensuous elements. I’d love to see it all over again, now that my senses have been stirred.

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Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

judeee1.jpgWhoever said that classics are plain and boring certainly hasn’t read Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.

Jude Fawley is a young boy in the quaint town of Marygreen. When the town schoolmaster, Richard Phillotson, moves to Christminster, Jude vows to escape the countryside one day and make it to Christminster, where the center of universities and higher learning are.

Having a real passion for learning, Jude educates himself by reading dozens of books while working as a stone mason. At the age of 19, Jude was tricked into marrying Arabella Donn, the first person of the opposite sex he’s had any sort of interaction with. Hence he reluctantly let go of his dreams of being educated.

The marriage turns sour, and Arabella migrates with her family to Australia. Feeling free once again, Jude took this opportunity to leave for Christminster. He learns that he has a cousin also in Christminster, the lovely Sue Bridehead. He develops an infatuation for Sue and falls in love with her. Refined, educated and outspoken, Sue is a far cry from his plucked from nowhere bride. An undeniable fondness and admiration develop between the two despite them being aware of their relation.

Funny enough, Sue disapproves of them continuing their affection for each other when Jude confessed that he is married by law to Arabella. (even if she has gone way down under).

Sue then marries the schoolmaster Richard Phillotson, whom Jude has contacted when he first arrived at Christminster.

But even if she is lawfully married to Phillotson, Sue still finds herself having clandestine tete a tetes with Jude. Unable to handle the guilt and passion, she requests her husband to ‘let her go’ to be with her cousin Jude. Phillotson agrees and soon he was voted out of the University he teaches in, for setting a shameful example of tolerating adultery. Talk about compassion from the public—twice a victim!

Sue and Jude try hard to have a normal life together, but both of them refused to wed thinking that marriage will ruin the passionate relationship that they have. Soon, a letter from Arabella arrives, saying that she and Jude have a son together and is on his way to be with Jude. Jude and Sue accept the boy as their own, named him Jude and nicknamed him Father Time. But the boy is far too mature for his age, way too observant and perceptive, displaying almost no happiness nor emotion.

Hard times were showered generously on Jude and Sue, especially when people learned of their relation. They were treated as outcasts by the town and Jude’s work orders diminished drastically. They decided to move towns but no one would take them, especially with 4 children (Father Time, 2 children of their own, and one more due in a month) Father Time then rightfully lamented to Sue that she should stop bearing children, and thought that having children is making their lives miserable.

Later, they find Jude junior (Father Time) dead, he hung himself—but not without strangling his two half brother and sister first and also tying them up in the ceiling.

Sue loses the child in her womb and after this incident, shedecided to stop living in sin, and tried to correct the mistake she made by going back to Phillotson, who readily accepted her again. Meanwhile, Arabella was long back from Australia and realized that she liked Jude still. So for the second time, she tricked Jude into re-marrying her.

Jude later gets seriously ill and visits Sue for the last time under the pouring rain. A few days later, Jude dies in his bed. When Arabella realizes he is dead, she goes out on a flirtatious date with Dr. Vilbert, Jude’s physician.

 

Even Hollywood hasn’t come up with a plot as scandalous. The real Jerry Springer.