Dark, Fiction, Magical realism, Well known books, Women's

Everything Should Be Practical – Even Magic Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

As we’re nearing the release of The Rules of Magic, let’s look back to where it all began. Back in the 90’s when I was but a wee lass, there was Practical Magic. Which wasn’t just a book – it became a beautiful movie too! In fact, that’s how I come to know this wonderful story of Alice’s – through seeing the movie when I was a child, or maybe a teen.

And then we waited for years, without even knowing we were waiting.

I was really excited to read Practical Magic, because I really loved the movie, but I suppose that’s what made my experience worse than it would have been, had I approached the book as a blank slate. The movie has quite a few differences to the book, so if you expect the same story – forget about it. That’s not necessarily bad, of course – it’s just that after having loved the movie as a young teen, it’s impossible to, well… Unsee it.

Had I read this book on its own though, I would probably have loved it much more – as I love nearly anything that Alice writes. You can feel the same style, the same passion – even though it’s an older work of hers. However, I had a few problems with this story – for example, the portrayal of love. The book makes it sound like physical love is pretty much all there is to it! I refuse to accept that – certainly, that’s not my experience. Where is companionable love, where’s soul love? Where is the rest of it? Aside from that, it makes it sound like only incredibly beautiful women are loved. That’s… harmful. I know the author probably did not mean it that way, but having always felt one of the plainer ladies myself, it was… a little hurtful to read it. We are constantly barraged with messages that we’re not beautiful enough – every woman is today. We don’t need to be told that only pretty ones are loved, moreover – we absolutely don’t need to be told that one pretty woman’s looks can act like a spell and take true love away. Certainly that’s not true, or at least – not always true? There’s definitely more to love than that!

If you can put that aside though, the book grows on you. Alice has such a beautiful writing style, she can tell a story like it’s a fairytale, and maybe a dark, adult one – that’s what I love about her books the most. Reading her works, you feel as if the world you’re reading about (and quite possibly, the world you’re even living in) is not as simple as it seems – it’s magical, secretive and probably quite dark.

Other than that, I think it was a job well done writing about an abusive relationship and shedding light on all of the feelings and causes of one. Alice always does a splendid job with these things. But even though the feelings are very well written, this novel doesn’t come too close to the characters – it’s more like a camera that keeps watching from the corner of the room – not making assumptions, not judging the characters – it’s just there.

Differences from the movie? Let me use a spoiler tag for those who still want to read Practical Magic. The story doesn’t take place in the aunt’s house, that’s one thing. Another thing – the whole tone of the story. The fact that the sisters are never absolved in front of the community. The fact that Gillian never did kill her husband. Or the fact that Sally’s girls are not little, they’re almost grown. The fact that Gillian takes a lover too, it’s not just Sally who’s got a happy ending. And also? Gillian is blonde!

You are supporting this blog by buying the book from Book Depository using this link. Also – keep your eyes peeled, as I’ll be publishing the review for The Rules of Magic sometime in October!

Have you read Practical Magic? How did you like it? Are you looking forward to the publishing of The Rules of Magic?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

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Rosie Amber
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I’ve heard about the book, but not read it yet, or seen the movie, but look interesting.

Grab the Lapels
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I remember hearing about the movie but not seeing it. I was more of a Hocus Pocus/The Craft girl myself. (note to self: The Craft is on Netflix and I want to watch it again. Robin Tunney–so 90s. So good). However, I don’t think I could bear to ever read a book that has beautiful women more deserving of love. In fact, one of the reasons I love Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier so much is that the unnamed narrator is a plain woman who must work to support herself. She marries an extraordinarily wealthy man whose first wife (now… Read more »
Patty
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I did read Practical Magic…a while ago. I have the new one to read. Hopefully I will read it soon!

Brian Joseph
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I try not to compare books and films as I think that they are very different art forms. With that, seeing a beloved book changed a lot in film form, or vise versa, can be jarring.

Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium
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I was excited when I saw this cover on your feed! I love Alice’s writing so want to read this book so badly! So the three stars is a bummer! I didn’t read the review yet because I still want to try it but I did skim enough to realize there is a movie! [or get reminded because I think I knew but forgot] I have to remember to watch it too!

Yvonne@FictionBooks
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Hi Evelina, This just isn’t a storyline which would interest me in the slightest and having read no Alice Hoffman books, I had no idea that she is such a prolific author, although I do like the cover art of this one! I admire the thoughtful and well considered comments included in your review. Like myself, you have tried to remain positive, as reviewing is always so subjective, what one person enjoys reading another might find not at all to their taste, it is purely and simply a matter of personal opinion. I am never sure whether watching a film… Read more »
Jennifer | Book Den
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I love this movie. I really should read the book. Maybe it would be a good October read. I had no idea another book was coming out. It’s a direct sequel to Practical Magic?

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Geybie's Book Blog
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I get your issues with this book. Physical love only does turn me off. It makes the relationship so shallow; I don’t like it. Awesome review, Avalinah. Thanks for sharing. ❤️

Anna
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I read this book years ago after I randomly stumbled upon it in my local library. All I knew about it was that the cover was pretty so I decided to give it a go 😉 The style was pretty, if I remember my feelings correctly, but the pace was too slow to really entice me. Your tagline of magic being practical reminds me of a book I read a while ago– Among Others by Jo Walton ((a book I also picked up randomly because of the pretty cover. oh the days before book blogging!)). It features a unique magic… Read more »
Jackie B.
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Like Melanie mentioned above, I was more of a Hocus Pocus kind of girl growing up. I adore Sandra Bullock, but the preview was so dark looking (very 90’s, actually), that I shied away from it. Oops! That said, I’ve heard great things about Hoffman’s work. Was this a NetGalley request when you didn’t know it was a sequel? Or did you know that you’d need to read Practical Magic when you requested Rules? I really appreciate your review. It’s always interesting to hear what people think of a book when they see the film first. Do you think you… Read more »
Darque Dreamer
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Very interesting to read about the book. I remembering loving the movie so much!!

BTW, I don’t remember if I have asked about your experience with the affiliate links and if there are any crazy rules.

Cassie Winters
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I couldn’t read this post because I literally bought the book from a used bookstore within the last couple weeks to read. I am glad though I checked what the heck “The Rules of Magic” is because now I will hold off until that is released to read it. I had no idea she was writing a prequel book. Sometimes I am so out of the book loop.

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[…] sure you’ve all heard of The Rules of Magic – I’ve recently posted a review of Practical Magic which this is a prequel to. Then I also have House of Shadows – something mysterious about […]