Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman: Book Review

I finished Practical Magic a few days ago. It’s one that has been on my to-be-read shelves for some time, so it was good to read it. It’s a light easy read, about the Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian. I have to admit that one of my reasons for choosing this book in the first place is that my mother’s maiden name was Owens and her aunt was called Sally. The resemblance ends with the name as my Sally Owens was nothing like this Sally Owens.

Sally and Gillian were orphaned when they were very young and went to live with their eccentric, elderly aunts in New England. Generations of the Owens women have lived in the house for more than two hundred years and have a reputation as witches. Everything that goes wrong in the town is put down to them. Yet women come to their door at night looking for remedies, particularly for love potions. Sally and Gillian grow up and both move away from their aunts to make their own way. Gillian, the younger wayward sister, has lots of love affairs ending up with Jimmy. Sally, the sensible one, meanwhile has two daughters and is a widow. When Gillian lands up on her doorstep with a dead Jimmy in the car, Sally’s life is turned upside down as she tries to cope with the situation. In the end it is the aunts who are called upon for help.

This is the first book by Alice Hoffman that I’ve read and whilst I thought it was OK I shan’t be rushing out to find more of her books. It has the feel of a fairy tale, mixed up with reality which I liked. There was enough suspense to keep me wondering how it would end and I liked how the characters interacted – Sally and Gillian were both well-drawn. I wasn’t that keen on the love stories, which seemed to be of the type of instant attraction with disastrous consequences. Interestingly, for me at any rate, I didn’t mind that it’s written in the present tense, most of the time I didn’t even notice it.

I didn’t identify this as a book for the RIP Challenge, but it fits in well, I think.

6 thoughts on “Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman: Book Review

  1. Margaret – Thanks for this review. I must be honest and say that in general, the fairy-tale tone and theme doesn’t generally appeal to me. I’ve heard lots of good things about Alice Hoffman’s work, though. I’m glad you found some things to enjoy about this one.


  2. Oh my ignorance! I didn’t even know this was a book!! I will admit that I loved the movie but am not sure that I would like it as much in book form. Which isn’t usually the case is it!!


  3. I didn’t know it was a book either. I like the premise, but didn’t care for the movie, and after reading your review it sounds like I wouldn’t care for the book all that much either…although diverting is generally a good attribute!

    >It has the feel of a fairy tale, mixed up with reality which I liked.

    I do like magical realism occasionally, so maybe I would like it.


  4. Good review, thank you! I’ve picked up books based on character names myself–but have yet to run into any family members!

    I saw the movie first and enjoyed it, so naturally I wanted to read the book (because the book is always better, right?) I doubt I’ll ever read the book again, but I rewatch the movie every so often–the visuals are just so gorgeous. The Owens’ house is the most beautiful home I’ve ever seen–talk about a fairy tale setting!


  5. This is not my favourite Hoffman… It’s good, but nothing amazing. I think I liked the movie about as much as the book. It’s a good Halloween brain candy, though


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