Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published in 1995 by Berkley
My copy: Library
Sisters Gillian and Sally Owens were brought up by their two elderly guardian aunts in a world of spells and exotica. As the magical charm of their childhood wears away, they escape from this mystical mayhem – one by running away, the other by marrying.
Many years go by before strange circumstances thrust them together again, and once more they are in a place that blends the mundane and mysterious, the familiar and fantastic. Three generations of Owens women are brought together in an experience of unexpected insight and revelation, teaching all of them that such perceptions are rare and wonderful and – to be sure – practical.
From the very beginning, I found myself enjoying this magical, slightly quirky novel. We are immediately drawn into the special but difficult world of the two young sisters, who are as close as twins yet as different as siblings can be. They constantly struggle against their aunts’ reputation as witch-like women who can curse anyone they cross paths with. Despite this, women often appear on the doorstep looking for ways to snare men – or get rid of them. The young sisters watch all this from a distance, and see how the spells the aunts brew up can sometimes backfire.
Moving forward rapidly through the years, Sally is on her own with her two children, who she is trying to give as normal a life as possible. Then Gillian appears, bringing a whole heap of trouble with her, and turning Sally’s life upside-down in the process.
It was here that the book started to go a bit downhill for me as some of the magical elements of the book became a bit tedious and took away from the more interesting aspects of the story, such as the relationship between the two sisters after years of barely seeing each other. The way their lives had taken very different paths was interesting but perhaps a bit under-developed, and I also felt this way about the early part of the novel set during the sisters’ childhoods – there just wasn’t really enough of this for me. It’s a shame because there was a lot I liked about this book, but by the end I found myself a bit over it, as the magic had got in the way of an otherwise interesting story.
Despite this, I would definitely read more or Hoffman as there was a lot I liked about the novel.
My rating: 6 out of 10