Literary Criticism

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Laura Esquivel’s Mexican Fictions

Like Water for Chocolate, The Law of Love, Swift as Desire, Malinche: A Novel

Elizabeth Moore Willingham is Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at Baylor University (Waco, Texas). She has published on Latin American women’s fiction, Laura Esquivel’s fiction, Medical Humanities, Historical Language, and Medieval Miracle and Arthurian literature. She has served as president and executive director of the Southwest Council of Latin American Studies. She is series editor for The Lancelot of Yale 229 (Brepols) and volume editor for Essays on the Lancelot of Yale 229 (2007) and editions of La mort le Roi Artu (2007) and La Queste del Saint Graal (2009). The Agrauains edition, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is to be published in 2012.

Laura Esquivel's Mexican Fictions won the Harvey L. Johnson Book Award for 2011 conferred by the South Central Organization of Latin American Studies at its 44th annual Congress in Miami, Florida (March 9, 2012)

Outstanding essayists in Latin American literature and film explore Laura Esquivel’s critical reputation, contextualize her work in literary movements, and consider her four novels and the film based on Like Water for Chocolate from diverse critical perspectives.

The Editor’s “An Introduction to Esquivel Criticism” reviews twenty-years of global praise and condemnation. Elena Poniatowska, in an essay provided in the original Spanish and in translation, reflects on her first reading of Like Water for Chocolate. From unique critical perspectives, Jeffrey Oxford, Patrick Duffey, and Debra Andrist probe the novel as film and fiction. The Reverend Dr. Stephen Butler Murray explores the author’s spiritual focus, and cultural geographer Maria Elena Christie uses words and images to compare Mexican kitchen-space and Esquivel’s first novel. Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez and Lydia H. Rodríguez affirm divergent readings of The Law of Love, and Elizabeth M. Willingham reads contested national identity in Swift as Desire. Jeanne L. Gillespie and Ryan F. Long approach Malinche: A Novel through historical documents and popular and religious culture. In the closing essay of the volume, Alberto Julián Pérez contextualizes Esquivel’s fiction within Feminist and Hispanic literary movements.

A glossary and translations recommend the work to English-speaking readers and those new to studies of Hispanic fiction and film. This book is the first in-depth review and assessment of twenty years of Esquivel criticism. The comparative and theoretical views presented of each of Esquivel’s four novels and the film of Like Water for Chocolate provide suggestions for future literary research.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-410-9
Hardback Price: £49.50 / $69.50
Release Date: June 2010
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-556-4
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: September 2012
Page Extent / Format: 304 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes, colour plate section



Abbreviations Used in the Volume

Works by Laura Esquivel

Editor’s Preface
The Essays
Translations into English
Style, notes, and chronology
Using the Works Cited
Elizabeth M. Willingham

A Biography of Laura Esquivel
Linda Ledford-Miller

An Introduction to Esquivel Criticism
Like Water for Chocolate: The novel’s early critical reception
Like Water for Chocolate: The novel and the critics
Like Water for Chocolate: The film and the critics
The Law of Love
Swift as Desire
Malinche: A Novel
Future directions in Esquivel criticism
Elizabeth M. Willingham

Laura Esquivel’s Mexican Chocolate
Elena Poniatowska Amor
(Translated by Manuel Muñoz and Elizabeth M. Willingham)

El chocolate mexicano de Laura Esquivel
Elena Poniatowska Amor

Patrick Duffey
Crossing Gender Borders: Subversion of Cinematic Melodrama in Like Water for Chocolate
Patrick Duffey

Unmasked Men: Sex Roles in Like Water for Chocolate
Jeffrey Oxford

The Absence of God and the Presence of Ancestors in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate
Stephen Butler Murray

Gendered Spaces, Gendered Knowledge: A Cultural Geography of Kitchenspace in Central Mexico
Maria Elisa Christie

Transformation, Code, and Mimesis: Healing the Family in Like Water for Chocolate
Debra D. Andrist

Cultural Identity and the Cosmos: Laura Esquivel’s Predictions for a New Millennium in The Law of Love
Elizabeth Coonrod Martinez

Laura Esquivel’s Quantum Leap in The Law of Love
Lydia H. Rodríguez
(Translated by Lydia H. Rodriguez)

The Two Mexicos of Swift as Desire
Elizabeth M. Willingham

Malinche: Fleshing out the Foundational Fictions of the Conquest of Mexico
Jeanne L. Gillespie

Esquivel’s Malinalli: Refusing the Last Word on La Malinche
Ryan F. Long

Esquivel’s Fiction in the Context of Latin American Women’s Writing
Alberto Julián Pérez
(Translated by Patrick Duffey and Harrison L. Parks)

Glossary of Spanish and Nahuatl Words and Phrases

The Cover Image: Frida Kahlo 1932

Notes on Contributors

Works Cited
Primary and Secondary Literary and Critical Sources
Films Cited
Film Reviews and Box Office Reports
Television Programming
Resources in Medical Humanities


This collection of essays on the work of celebrated Mexican writer Laura Esquivel provides a broad overview of her literary and cinematic production and suggests new approaches for analysis of her work. The introduction provides a detailed summary of existing scholarly investigations and will be especially useful to researchers. Suggestions for future directions in Esquivel criticism reflect contributors’ diverse fields. Essays highlight, for example, the retelling of Mexican and women’s history through the optic of a past linked always to the present; women’s critical role in the survival of communities through food preparation, knowledge of ecology, and natural healing; character traits when gender roles are reversed; tension between Catholic traditions and indigenous spirituality; women’s confrontations with collective and individual trauma; and the importance of knowledge production located in female-gendered domestic spaces responsible for familial, community, and national cohesiveness (the last a particularly understudied subject). In contrast to the volume’s celebration of Esquivel’s achievement is its final essay, “Esquivel’s Fiction in the Context of Latin American Women’s Writing,” in which the author deviates from the essay’s implicit goal by expressing his own discomfort with feminism in general and Esquivel’s rewriting of gender roles in particular. Summing Up: Recommended.

Reviewed in Spanish in Literaturas latinoamericas: historia y critica

Elizabeth Moore Willingham organized this edited collection of essays on the four novels of Mexican author Laura Esquivel no doubt aware there existed no other book of criticism exclusively devoted to Esquivel’s works. Her novel Como agua para chocolate is given particular attention in an article dedicated to scenes of storytelling in the novel (Yael Halevi-Wise) and in another about feminist views of kitchen tales (Maite Zubiaurre). There is already an impressively extensive list of articles published about this first smash hit of Esquivel’s, which quickly became a world cinematic phenomenon. Laura Esquivel’s Mexican Fictions will most likely be in demand if for no other reason than that scholars pursuing critical guidance on any or all of Esquivel’s four novels will find no better source, all in one place, than this volume of fourteen articles.
Bulletin of Spanish Studies

Reviewed in Spanish in IberoAmericana/Notas

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.