rating: 3 of 5 stars
Laura Esquivel is a Mexican author most famous for her novel Like Water for Chocolate. I’ve read her 2 books Like Water for Chocolate and The Law of Loveand enjoyed both. They both had touches of magical realism. Malinche is the third novel that I have read by Esquivel. This novel is a work of historical fiction that also contains a smattering of magical realism.
I am not very well-versed on Mexican history so I learned a few things from this novel which is the fictionalization of the life of La Malinche. La Malinche’s real name was Malinalli and she was an indigenous slave woman who lived in Mexico during the time when the Spanish were arriving and conquering. Many Mexicans view her as the person who allowed the Spanish to overthrow the Aztecs.
Malinalli is a strong-willed young woman who is given away as a gift to the Spaniards. She finds herself interacting with Hernán Cortes and eventually having an affair with him. Malinalli quickly learns the Spanish language and acts as an interpreter between Cortes and the indigenous people.
The character of Cortes was rather one dimensional and portrayed as a power-hungry, cold-hearted man who took whatever he wanted. The character of Mallinalli was more robustly portrayed…she was very spiritual and was concerned about her future and the future of her people. Even so, we didn’t fully understand some of her motivation, such as why she wanted to continue her affair with Cortes. It was also confusing as to why she seemed to have so much freedom if she was a slave.
Overall, Malinche was not as magical as Like Water for Chocolate. I suspect that maybe something was lost in the translation from the original Spanish that it was published in. I am still glad that I read it though since I did learn a little something about Mexican history. After reading the book I Googled Malinche to learn more about this historical figure…she’s apparently quite controversial!