Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted 21st June 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 16 Comments

I’m back! Uni has finished for the semester, and it ended horribly. I’m 99% sure I failed my Chemistry exam, given I only answered half the paper. But that’s okay! I can do it again! I’m not sure what it was about the first half of 2017, but I’ve never been less motivated to study in my life. Onwards and upwards though!

So here goes, a book review *gasp* last time I looked at my Goodreads account I was 4 books ahead of my goal, now I’m 4 behind. Oops!

Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanPractical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Penguin on August 5th 2003 (first published 1995)
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 286
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars

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...

At 85 pages in, I knew how I was going to rate this book. I decided to read Practical Magic as I love the movie (and re-watching it made me go looking for the source material). Usually I prefer to read novels after seeing film adaptations, because they are much richer and add more to the world on the screen. Well. Most of the time.

This is not one of those.

The film is vastly different, the relationships are similar but the setting is not. On paper, those relationships that made the movie for me had absolutely no depth, and there isn’t much in the way of magic (I was really disappointed by this). Alice Hoffman’s writing is beautiful, but the characters felt so lifeless and flat.

I liked Sally until the focus of the story moved elsewhere; when it shifted back, she was lost to me. I didn’t connect with her, Gillian or Sally’s daughters. It was surprising to me how much it focused on the daughters actually, I quite disliked that element.

As for Gillian, she’s the beautiful one; but she’s so weak and spineless! Running away, getting into one relationship after another until she ends up with an abuser she knows she should leave, but won’t. Then he dies and she runs to Sally for help. She’s irresponsible, supposedly a ‘free spirit’, but she just came across as sad and pathetic (whereas in the film, she was rather charming).

And Sally always helps. ALWAYS. Ugh.

The point of view seemed to change from one character to another halfway through a paragraph, which was super disorienting. Unless I read it wrong (which is possible) but it was bizarre, I never usually have a problem with POV changes.

I almost DNF at 206 pages, and then thought that would be a waste, so finished it ASAP just to move on.

I simply cannot recommend this novel, it was lifeless and bland. The movie on the other hand, A+.

Rating Report
Overall: 1.8

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16 responses to “Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

  1. Bummer about the chemistry test, but glad you get a reset on that.

    I loved this movie and I love reading the books movies are based on. Yeah, some can startle me when the book is not actually better than the film. I’ll let you take this one for the team and avoid the book. LOL

    • Hahaha I’m happy to take one for the team! I’m always surprised by how much I like this movie, it’s definitely a nice piece of escapism though. The book though, yikes.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. I hope your chemistry exam goes better when you take it again. That’s too bad you’re behind on your goodreads goal, but there’s still half of the year left :).

    Normally I enjoy the book even more than the movie, but there are cases where I watch the movie and never read the book. That’s too bad the relationships, characters and magic didn’t come alive in the book. Guess this is one of those stories where the movie is better than the book.

    • Thanks Lola, it did go better than expected (not much, but enough lol)

      I’m sure there’s heaps of movies in existence that are based on books I’ve never heard about. It makes me wonder, that’s for sure.

  3. I vaguely remember the movie, Nicole Kidman and was it Sandra Bullock? I remember it being pretty good but the book, not so much. It sounds like it has good bones but just lacks so much personality. Usually I’ve always found the book better than the adaptation but this definitely isn’t the case here. Sorry you couldn’t have enjoyed this more Bre but fabulous review sweetheart! <3

    • Yes, that’s the movie! I love that movie (it’s SO 90s hahaha). I’m so sad the book was so flat, heaps of people seem to enjoy her work and I was all ‘really?’ maybe my expectations were too high *sigh*

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