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Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic (original 1995; edition 2003)

by Alice Hoffman

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3,040871,864 (3.77)116
Title:Practical Magic
Authors:Alice Hoffman
Info:Berkley Trade (2003), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 286 pages
Collections:Your library

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Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (1995)


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Honestly, this is the first book I have ever read that I like the movie for better. :( Not that the book was bad, it was good, but given the choice to read the book or watch the movie, I would go with the movie. ( )
  BridgettKathryn | Sep 6, 2015 |
Hoffman is masterful when it comes to tails of family which include just a bit of the supernatural, and this story is no exception. I can't say that I enjoyed it as much as many of her others, as it almost felt like some of the characters blended together rather than stood on their own, but I did enjoy it. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jul 4, 2015 |
Wonderful and so much better than the movie. ( )
  mirshad | May 28, 2015 |
From my TBR pile and given to me as a birthday present. The edition I read was published by Random House.

I watched this film not long after it came out in 1998 and is one of the few films that I've ever considered reading the original book it was based on, and 15 or so years later, I did! The book and the film are definitely different, but the overall story of the film remains true to the book and actually plays to the strengths of the 4 main adult actresses: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing, Diane Wiest.


Gillian being the beautiful but wild one, who can never be tied down and is breaking hearts long before she runs away from her aunts and her sister.

Sally is the older, more sensible one, practical, vegetarian, science based one who soon rejects anything that cant be proved with evidence. Her aunts, being the local witches, are shunned by most during the day, but have their advice sought as soon as dusk makes their visitors' identity hidden.

The book is split up into four chapters, each covering a specific part of the girls' life.

Superstition is about the girls growing up with the aunts, and learning the price of your heart's desire. It finishes with Gillian already having escaped, and Sally moving away with her daughters Antonia and Kylie (the first set of differences with the film, where Sally never moves away and Antonia and Kylie have a much smaller part).

Premonitions is where Gillian finds Sally and the girls (who are now teenagers) in their house, and brings trouble in the form of the dead body of Gillian's boyfriend Jimmy. Sally is the one person Gillian can talk to – she is scared of the Aunts and doesnt feel she has the right or the want to ask for their help.

Clairvoyance is where Gillian settles in, finds new beau, but things turn for the worse including Jimmy haunting the garden. The lilac tree – under which Jimmy is buried – seems to grow amazingly, attracting weeping love lorn women, until the tree is cut down and burnt. Kylie and Antonia have a much bigger part than what is presented in the film – Antonia is similar to Gillian in the heart breaking skills, and Kylie – tall, ungainly, and sharing a room with her aunt – is soon influenced by Gillian's behaviour, until she feels betrayed by not being the centre of Gillian's world.

Levitation finds Gary seeking Jimmy whose malevolent energy continues to haunt the garden. The girls realise they have to call the aunts in to help and turn up the older women do, in their own style of course. The tables have definitely turned on Sally and Gillian. Gillian has finally found someone she wants to fight for and who is probably worth stability and staying put.She also realises that perhaps she is worth what the Aunts are prepared to bring. Sally has had the stability, and found that denying her past and her skills has brought her very little joy. The presence of Gary in her life – even briefly – makes her wonder whether the perceived stability is worth not having him in her life.

Gary makes a very short appearance in the book - but Aidan Quinn is a large part of the movie. In the book Jimmy turns up already dead, but Goran Visnjic has a much bigger part as the threatening ghost of Jimmy - in no small nod to his status as "taking over from George Clooney as the ER hunk" status - no complaints from me on either point!.

The story is told very much in the “epic third person” where it's a rather lyrical, sweeping, portions of time being swept away – there is very little diagloge between characters and whole decades disappear in a blink of an eye.

So: I love both the film AND the book, which is quite rare for me. Whilst the film is different from the book, there's at least enough of the spirit of the book kept within it (helped by Hoffman being one of the scriptwriters) to make me satisfied.
  nordie | Apr 12, 2015 |
I think I've read this book before, but didn't remember until midway through. Which kind of speaks for its memorability. I picked it up because I liked Garden Spells a lot and it heard this was similar. .... I think they are a little too similar.... It was a little strange.

I didn't like this one as much because the only thing this book cared about was love. There was no mention of girl friends or of being happy single or enjoying life just because. It only revolved around boys. Fairly shallow. Especially with all the amount of time and words dedicated towards describing how beautiful a character was and how so many boys lusted after them.

I don't think I liked any of the characters. The girls were all written well, written to be realistic and shown in different stages of their life where they learn and grow and change. But still. Meh. And I just felt sorry for Sally.
The boys were just abnormally-perfect-love-mates for the girls. All of them. Blah.
And really, were there any other characters besides the Owen girls and their respective love mates? Yeah. Well then.

I wanted a little more magic. Herbs and little stuff doesn't cut it when they have the potential to force a false love with a single dove heart.

And I don't really see how Jimmy had all that power to cause all that trouble. More like a forced story plot.

I was just not impressed. Which is just sad because I liked Garden Spells, which was oddly very similar.

Objective rating is probably three stars, but personal rating I'd have to give it two stars for lack of interest and shallowness.
Maybe recommended for people who like realistic magic and slice of life books. You probably have to be a girl to like this book too. Sorry boys. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
If there is an author north of the border who has managed to successfully translate the language of magic realism into the American idiom, it is Alice Hoffman.
Indeed, the title of Ms. Hoffman's latest novel, "Practical Magic," says it all: if you are going to believe in magic, it had better have palpable and easily comprehensible results.
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For every evil under the sun, There is a remedy, or there is none. If there be one, seek till you find it; If there be none, never mind it.  MOTHER GOOSE
To Libby Hodges, To Carol DeKnight

First words
For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town.
Math plus desire equals who you are.
Grief is all around; it's just invisible to most people.
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Book description
A tale of two sisters, Gillian and Sally Owens, 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, the normal and the numinous. 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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425190374, Paperback)

For most adults, fairy tales are among the childish things we've put away. Alice Hoffman, however, feels differently. Practical Magic starts out as a tale of Gillian and Sally Owens, two orphaned girls whose aunts are witches--of a mild sort. For the past two centuries, Owens women have been blamed for all that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town, ever since their ancestor arrived, rich, independent, and soon accused of theft: "And then one day, a farmer winged a crow in his cornfield, a creature who'd been stealing from him shamelessly for months. When Maria Owens appeared the very next morning with her arm in a sling and her white hand wound up in a white bandage, people felt certain they knew the reason why." The aunts are daily ostracized by the same upstanding citizens who sneak to their house at night for magical love cures. To the sisters they are for the most part benevolently absent, though their bell, book, and candle routine makes life a torment for Gillian, beautiful and blonde and lazy, and Sally, who's all too responsible. But when one of the aunts' cures works too well, ending as a curse, the dangers of real love become all too clear. In Hoffman's world being bewitched, bothered, and bewildered is no mere metaphor--and neither is desire. The elbows of one enamored man pucker a linoleum counter, another walks around with singed cuffs. It's difficult to catch the author's power in brief quotes. She needs space and increment to build her exquisite variations of vision and reality, her matter-of-fact announcements of the preternatural. Practical Magic again and again makes one recall the thrill of hearing at bedtime, "Now will I a tale unfold..." --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:47 -0400)

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Sorcery is the legacy of Gillian and Sally Owens, a legacy they both try to escape until they realize their magic is a gift, not an affliction.

(summary from another edition)

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