When I started reading Outlander I was entertained in an eye-brow-raised-all-the-way-to-my-hairline sort of way. However, when I got about half way through reading it, I became increasingly displeased. Why? Well, it had nothing to do with the premise. A woman from the 1940s transported through a magic stone to 1700s Scotland? Sign me up! I live for stuff like that. The issues I had with it were all to do with the writing.
While Jamie, our male love interest is remarkably well developed (both as a character and a hunka of burning love), Jamie is rather astonishingly modern for a Scotsman living in the 1700s (he is smart, well-reasoned, but still a tough, manly man outdoorsy dude that will protect you at all costs). So basically, he is the best in a romance fantasy sort of way.
Claire, on the other hand, is astonishingly dense at times. Sure, she can uncannily sense the truth of a situation, but then she goes and says these things out loud! No Claire, it is not very smart to let on that you know the Lord didn’t actually father his wife’s child. These things are just not said out loud! As a result, she quite often needs to be rescued from situations she puts herself in. Except, of course, when she saves the day with her many talents that include the ability to fight off a wolf single-handedly. Yes, that did happen. And, yes, even I will admit it was kind of awesome.
From this outpouring of criticism, one might think I didn’t enjoy Outlander. That is not true at all. Despite all the headshaking, prudish facial expressions, and groans at the novels shortcomings, it should be stated that I found this book to be a rip-roaring good time. Would I read another book in the series? Probably not. Did I spend an unholy amount of time on Wikipedia reading detailed summaries of each of the sequels? Guilty as charged. Did I put the first season of the TV adaption on hold? Yes. Yes, I did.
Reading Like Water for Chocolate was sort of like visiting with an old friend. For one thing, I had already read it (and seen the movie!). On the other, the writing is at once beautiful, mystical, and lyrical while at the same time somehow remaining completely accessible to those of us who don’t wish to have to study books as we read them.
I have nothing but praise for Like Water for Chocolate. The writing is delicious (pun intended), the characters well drawn, and the plot fast moving and fantastical. I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I gaped, I felt all the feelings just as the author intended. I would gladly follow Tita around in her domestic adventures for the rest of my life.
So in one book we have Scottish passion that is indulged, rather vividly, on the regular. In the other, we have a love that is repressed to the point where the lovers burn up in their passion. And I mean that literally (friends they spontaneously combust).
Which is the more romantic title? Hard to say. Both books achieve what they set out to do. Outlander entertains but without subtlety. Like Water for Chocolate sizzles with tension and humor but with an ending that may disappoint or confuse.
However, the writing of Like Water for Chocolate is so wonderfully engaging, the story so offbeat and charming, the journey of Tita so beautiful in its disappointments, frustrations, and small moments of rebellion that, for me, there could not be another winner in this match.
Like Water for Chocolate for the win!