Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman – Book Review


Possibly one of my more disappointing books in my reading list so far, in terms of an interesting plot anyway. It seemed a modern-day replica of Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick, with the same themes of empowered women living in the shadows of mainstream society. Practical Magic is the story of Gillian and Sally Owens, two women who lived with two mysterious Aunts when they were younger. The Aunts welcome women into their homes to solve any problems with love and men. The two girls pledge never to fall into the traps of love, yet lo and behold, they both grow up and in their own ways get hurt by love. Gillian runs away from home. She throws herself at any man who is willing and Sally falls desperately in love with a man who gives her two daughters, but she too faces a bitter disappointment. The two daughters, Antonia and Kylie live away with Sally, their pretty normal lives are overturned by the return of Gillian, who brings a whole lot of trouble with her.

The premise seems to boil down to the idea that the only magic left in the world is love. Love seems to be the most alluring spell that someone can cast on you. In a modern society, the witches are a dying breed, as the only true characters with powers are the Aunts. An old and decrepit pair who always wear black and tend to be pretty dour. They live in a typical old-fashioned and overgrown house, as a witches tend to do, of course. Yet out of this home comes the new witches, who do seem to cast spells on those who hopelessly fall in love with them. Many scenes are passed with boy onlookers gawking at the Owens girls, despite them being described as not conventionally beautiful. This honestly got a bit old after a while. Most scenes diverted off course to allow the women to get passionate with whoever they pleased and it sort of got old towards the end. I mean, falling head over heels for someone investigating you for a missing body seemed too strange. I get that love and lust is supposed to be the great almighty power, but I didn’t see the point of it inexplicably controlling their lives. Maybe I’ve missed something.

I did enjoy the style of description as well, Hoffman delved into every scene with precision and care. The setting was always atmospheric and dark which added to the magical realism surrounding every corner that the characters turn. As I have said, there were many similar attributes to The Witches of Eastwick, as I felt they would’ve been set in aesthetically similar places. The language was generally sound, they was maybe an overuse of the f-word that wasn’t particularly needed. Some awkward sex descriptions leaked it, but thankfully fleeting and rare.

Many reviews that I have read, recommend the film over the book, which is a rarity when it comes to this relationship. I will have to give that a viewing in order to give my own comparison. The book wasn’t really for me, I would say it was a bit of a chick-flick with a hint of witchcraft. There were too many teenage girls worrying about boys and hairstyles for my liking. I would possibly read it again, but only for the means of studying it.

One response to “Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ – Original 1953 Play and 1996 Film Review | Sollie Reviews·

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