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?

30 thoughts on “Everything Should Be Practical – Even Magic Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

  1. 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 dead) was GORGEOUS and classy–nothing like our little narrator. Oh, how I have been the narrator.

    1. I loooooooved Hocus Pocus! But I can’t say I know of The Craft. Might be to do with me not living in the US. Or maybe I just don’t recognize the name, cause I mostly watched movies when I was a kid/teen, and at that time, all of them were translated, so I might not even know the name in English.

      Yes, preach! Rebecca deserves ALL the love. As does Jane Eyre, in the same tradition. Love both of those. And yeah… I didn’t feel good about this part myself. I mean, not everyone’s pretty. In fact, most girls aren’t. There’s no reason to put us down -.- even if indirectly. Although maybe she’s just trying to paint a hostile world.

      However, there was none of that in the movie, so I truly do recommend it 🙂

        1. I think I might have seen snippets… But that’s it. Maybe I should watch it. It seems to have Neve Campbell, who I plainly adored as an adolescent! Isn’t she the cooooolest.

      1. I second both of you women about Rebecca. It’s such a beautiful and haunting book. It does get at how challenging it can be to follow a “well-loved” and beautiful woman. And what that can do to people psychologically. It makes me a bit sad that I can relate- hence the reason I love reading it.

        I hope you’re right, Evelina, that Hoffman didn’t mean to make that comparison!
        Jackie B. recently posted…#AnneReadAlong2017 : Anne’s House of DreamsMy Profile

        1. Well, who knows 🙂 it’s really too bad I didn’t think of asking this magic in the Goodreads interview poll that I was mailed maybe a month ago! Where they send all the people who rated her books 4 or 5 stars to mail in the questions to ask her. I could have asked 🙂

    1. Yeah, I don’t watch a lot of films altogether! I saw this when I was a child though. Several times. So I guess that was why it was pretty much ingrained in my mind! Up to this year, I didn’t even know a book existed :0

  2. 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!
    Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium recently posted…Bone Gap – 4.9 Mermaids’ Tiara Gems stars!My Profile

    1. I think you should totally read it, and knowing your taste – I think you will actually like it! So come back and read my review after you’ve read it, and link drop on me 🙂 I want to read yours. I would like to find out what you thought. I think you’d give it at least 4 stars for sure.
      Do you have the prequel ARC?
      Watch the movie after you’ve read too. The movie is absolutely delightful 🙂

  3. 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 or reading a book first is the best way. In fact I generally tend to do either one or the other, but very seldom both. That doesn’t automatically follow with the small screen though, as I am quite happy to read the book and then watch the television adaptation. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two viewing mediums, but there it is!

    Thanks for sharing and enjoy your weekend 🙂

    Yvonne
    Yvonne@FictionBooks recently posted…‘Bridges’ by Maria MurnaneMy Profile

    1. Hi Yvonne! Thanks for reading. Yeah, I also only read my first Alice Hoffman book last year, and I have to say, I enjoy her story writing a lot. She just puts so much feeling in it, it greatly resonates with me. And she’s written loads of books already as well, so I can basically go back and read all those, which is great.
      You’re right though, it’s best to either read the book, or watch the movie. Last year I didn’t even know there was a book! That was a pleasant surprise. I have the prequel ARC, that’s really the only reason I wanted to read the book at all. The movie was amazing, it’s my childhood favorite. But I don’t often watch movies at all, so you could call it a sort of an exception 🙂

    1. Well, can’t say a sequel, but sort of – it’s a prequel 😀 it’s about the two girls’ mother. Yes, I loved the movie too! I don’t think I know a single person who didn’t 😀

    1. Oh yeah, as a romance blogger you’d definitely understand this issue 🙂 it’s just… not tasty! Hah. If I can put it that way 😀
      Thanks for reading ^_^ glad you liked it!

  4. 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 system where magic is always perfectly deniable– you can never actually /prove/ that magic did something. It’s a really good book!
    Anna recently posted…Dear Sunday: My New ProjectMy Profile

    1. Yeah, the style is definitely pretty, Alice Hoffman knows only too well how to write poetic prose 🙂 slow? Hm, I thought it was so short, I didn’t even feel any pace issues 😀 maybe it’s because I was reading it during a vacation?
      Wow, that book you mention sounds pretty amazing. I think I am going on Goodreads right away 😀 thanks for mentioning it!

  5. 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 like the book or the movie better? I will wait to decide if I’ll add this to my TBR after hearing that report out and to hear what you think of Rules.
    Jackie B. recently posted…#AnneReadAlong2017 : Anne’s House of DreamsMy Profile

    1. Hm, the story of me and this ARC is interesting 😀 first I saw it on NetGalley, and then my Hoffman-senses went off. Then I looked into it, and I was like, oh! It’s the prequel to THAT! So I requested it. Sadly, I was not approved… But lo and behold, about a month later when I had all but forgotten it, a message from the publisher drops into my inbox – requesting to review it! Because I had rated her previous book highly and given a good review. So I grabbed at the chance and got Practical Magic to read in preparation.

      And you should really watch that movie 🙂 it absolutely rocked. Unfortunately.. I think I liked the movie better. The book was a lot darker and less romantic (not the love romantic, the.. gothic novel kind of romantic :D)

  6. 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.

    1. No, you didn’t 🙂 nope, no crazy rules! It’s all quite simple. However, I’ve had it for over a half a year now I think and still haven’t made a cent xD so I don’t know if it’s worth it. But if you want to ask about how to sign up, shoot me a Twitter private message 🙂

      1. Thanks. I may do that. I have been considering running a poll to have fellow bloggers answer if they even consider clicking those links when they visit a blog post. May give us some good information to help.

  7. 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.
    Cassie Winters recently posted…Graphic Novel Review: Wonder Woman Volume 2 – Year OneMy Profile

    1. So wait, did you get Practical Magic, or The Rules of Magic? 😀 I got mixed up. Either way, you can read the prequel separately – Hoffman states so in the preface! Although of course you’d have more of a background if you read Practical Magic first. But Rules is SUCH a good book, I’m currently done with more than half of it and I can say it’s definitely very enjoyable. I can already recommend it, although I haven’t finished it yet 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge