Some of you might have read my review on The Rules of Magic, which is the prequel to Practical Magic. So, after I was over the moon with the prequel, I naturally had to check out the original book. So let’s talk about it!
The Owens sisters Gillian and Sally couldn’t be more different. Whereas Gillian has always been a wanderer, Sally craved steadiness.
However, due to their family history both were bound to encounter troublesome lives. Maria Owens, their ancestor, and a witch cursed those the Owens women fall in love with.
It soon turns out, this will be the least of their problems…
As I mentioned before, the first thing I read was the prequel The Rules of Magic which I really enjoyed. I would have started with Practical Magic but it was not available at the library at the time and now I’m glad I started with the other book.
Practical Magic was rather disappointing for me and had I read this one first, I wouldn’t even have bothered with the prequel.
The book was turned into a movie in 1998, so I thought I knew what to expect. However, those two are quite different and I’m not sure I like it. (But more on that matter in a book vs. movie post.)
The first third of Alice Hoffman’s novel was lovely and fascinating. I liked the characters and was excited to follow them on their journey. But at some point it all went downhill.
Well, first of all, the book is titled Practical Magic, so you’d expect some magic in there, wouldn’t you? Some stuff the aunts do is described at the beginning, but after a while, the whole magical topic kind of dies and is never to be seen again. This annoyed me a great deal!
Furthermore, there is so much whining and self-pity going on, I just want to slap the characters in the face. Everybody is so beautiful but oh so unsure about themselves. The sisters (and Sally’s daughters) constantly complain about everything. And Alice Hoffman seems to be a huge fan of lists, so we get endless lamentations of all the things that might not be rainbows and butterflies. To be honest, I couldn’t bring myself to care for any of the characters – they only managed to get me to roll my eyes constantly.
Moreover, the story doesn’t make too much sense. For a large part, there’s nothing going own. It’s just weird and dragging on. There are many choices made in this book that I simply cannot comprehend. Let me give you an example. Gillian decides to chop off and bleach Kylie’s hair. Kylie happens to be Sally’s barely 14-year-old daughter. She does so without asking Sally or even thinking that this might not be okay. Seriously. No matter how self-absorbed you are, you can’t tell me that you are incapable of seeing the potential for trouble here. There are many more moments like this!
Finally, I was rather irritated by all those weird sex scenes mentioned in the book. Those didn’t really tie in with the rest of the novel and its overall vibe. Many of those scenes just seemed out of place and there were quite a lot of them!
There are also many moments that make me question Alice Hoffman’s judgment. Maybe back in the 90’s stuff like that was okay, but I was certainly startled. There are chapters that basically hint at rape:
“At this moment, Gary wishes he could grab her and force her, at least until she gave in. He’d like to make love to her right here, he’d like to do it all night and not give a damn about anything else, and not listen if she told him no. But he’s not that kind of man, and he never will be.”
By the way, this is supposed to be the super cute, sensitive, good guy. I mean Hoffman, are you kidding me? Gillian’s boyfriend was more of a bad boy so you can imagine what we get there. I won’t even begin talking about Gillian’s stalker who is presented as romantic…
The book got somewhat better towards the end, but ultimately I was very disappointed. My expectations weren’t that high but Practical Magic certainly didn’t live up to any of them.
Did you read the book? Let me know in the comments what you think!