Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted July 7, 2017 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 5 Comments

Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Penguin
Published on: August 5 2003
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 286
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
One StarOne Star
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“[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”—Cosmopolitan

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

“Splendid...Practical Magic is one of [Hoffman's] best novels, showing on every page her gift for touching ordinary life as if with a wand, to reveal how extraordinary life really is.”—Newsweek

There are a handful of authors that I feel like I should’ve checked out by now, and every new release that I don’t read makes me feel like more and more of failure.

I’m a book review blogger.

A speculative fiction book review blogger.

How can I not have read Alice Hoffman? *rings bell-of-shame*


No more.

PRACTICAL MAGIC seemed like the obvious choice. I loved the movie, but hadn’t watched it recently enough to be put off by inconsistencies, so when I found a cheap copy at Book Outlet, I snagged it. Then I took it with me to the beach b/c my version of a “beach read.”

Unfortunately, it went about as well as every other previous beach read, which is to say, ugh.

You: How is that possible? Even the sternest of critics love her.

Me: I KNOW. Kirkus Reviews said, “Her best sentences are like incantations.

The weird thing is that while I reading it, I thought I liked it. It was full of those deliciously painful insights that we all recognize but can rarely put into words:

Because of this, the girls always felt temporary. They had the sense that they’d better be careful about what they said and what they revealed. Certainly they never shared their fear of storms with the aunts, as if after the nightmares and stomach viruses, fevers and food allergies, that phobia might be the last straw for the aunts, who had never particularly wanted children in the first place.

Yet despite these regularly occurring revelations, cumulatively it all felt . . . hollow.

Sally fell in love with the man from the hardware store and was devastated when he died. Gillian was a hot mess who jumped into bad relationship after bad relationship.

But these facts were relayed so dispassionately that I didn’t care.

And then when the sisters found new love, real love, the kind that lasts, it was so sudden, and in both cases, so unnaturally compelling that it felt more like more witchery than anything of substance.

Relationships aren’t that easy. They just aren’t. So I didn’t believe it, and combined with the lack of connection to the sisters, no number of poignant insights was going to save it.

Will I read Hoffman again?

Maybe. Probably. But it’s no longer on the top of my must-immediately-overcome-shortcomings list, and I don’t recommend this one.

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



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