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Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons (edition 2020)

by Alice Hoffman

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16215124,293 (4.47)1
Title:Magic Lessons
Authors:Alice Hoffman
Info:London : Simon & Schuster, 2020.
Collections:Your library
Tags:Magical realism, historical

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Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman



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When I first learned that there would be a third book about the Owens women, I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. After all, I had loved Practical Magic, the story of Sally and Jill Owens and their aunties, Aunt Francis and Aunt Jett. Many years later, I read and loved the second book, The Rules of Magic, which tells the aunts’ stories, even more than I had loved the first book. So while I was anticipating the third book, I was hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed, as the third book in a trilogy doesn’t always live up to the hype, and with this being my favorite series to date, there was a lot on the line. However, I should not have worried, not even for a minute. Magic Lessons, which goes back to the beginnings of the Owens family and their family curse as uttered by Maria Owens, was every bit as good as as I had hoped it would be. It alludes to the two previous books without directly referencing them by reminding us that practical magic is the best and most effective magic, and when choosing that path one must be careful to follow the rules of magic, or suffer the consequences. In her practical yet magical way, Alice Hoffman once again delivers a story worth telling, a story told so compellingly that it’s hard to put the book down. As with all good stories, I wanted to know the outcome, but I didn’t want the story to end. This trilogy is definitely one I will read again. ( )
  LoriFox | Oct 24, 2020 |
“Do as you will, but harm no one. What you give will be returned to you threefold. Fall in love whenever you can.”

Magic Lessons is the enchanting origin story for the curse that plagues the Owens sisters in Practical Magic from Alice Hoffman.

It begins in 1664 when Hannah Owens, a practitioner of the Nameless Arts, finds an infant wrapped in a blue blanket with her name, Maria, carefully stitched along the border with silk thread abandoned in the snow. Recognising that the child is gifted with bloodline magic, Hannah teaches Maria how to help and heal as women from the surrounding villages find their way to the Owens home deep in the forest. When Maria is ten a finely dressed, red haired witch arrives asking that Hannah break a powerful love spell she had foolishly cast upon herself. The woman is Maria’s mother, Rebecca, who stays barely a night, but invites tragedy in her wake, and alters Maria’s fate.

“Love could ruin your life or set you free; it could happen by chance or be a well-planned decision.”

From England, to Curaçao, to Massachusetts and New York, Maria’s fate twists and turns driven by love, betrayal, fear and vengeance. An unwise romance blesses her with a daughter, Faith, but also places her on the gallows in Salem, and a curse spoken in anger becomes a legacy that will affect the Owens women for generations.

The characters are well-drawn, and believable, marked by joy and tragedy. Maria and her daughter are complex and appealing - bright, headstrong, and courageous, but they each make mistakes.

Hoffman weaves interesting historical detail into her story, including connecting her characters with the Salem witch trials, and one of its most prominent actors. She explores the lack of agency women had over their lives in the period, and the way women like Hannah, Maria and Faith were equally revered, and feared.

The writing is lyrical yet not pretentious, with a mesmerising cadence. Descriptions of people and places are evocative, with spell recipes a charming addition.

It’s not necessary to be familiar with Practical Magic, or The Rules of Magic to enjoy this novel, a spellbinding story, Magic Lessons is a captivating read in its own right.

“These are the lessons to be learned. Drink chamomile tea to calm the spirit. Feed a cold and starve a fever. Read as many books as you can. Always choose courage. Never watch another woman burn. Know that love is the only answer.” ( )
  shelleyraec | Oct 17, 2020 |
Magic Lessons was one of my most anticipated books this year. I wanted to love it; I only just liked it.

I know, I know. I hear you booing me.

This story has lots of positives. The setting is beautifully captured as we travel from England to Salem to New York in the 1600s. Women are represented as strong and independent, despite being suppressed and repressed. We clearly see jealousy and vindictiveness in other women and fear in men as causes for witch hysteria. The research and portrayal of the era is impeccable.

So why didn't I love the book?

First, pacing is slow throughout, with quite a bit of repetitiveness and introspection. I could've lived with that because the content is interesting, which leads me to my major issue.

I didn't connect with the writing style at all. The entire story is "told" to us, as if some invisible narrator is taking us along through the years, describing what happens. I saw it all playing out, but I didn't feel any of the emotions. I couldn't settle in and experience the story. This left me disconnected from what should have been a powerful story.

I haven't yet read Practical Magic or Rules of Magic, so I don't know if this is Hoffman's normal writing style or if this book is written differently.

In the end, I felt more like I'd read a nonfiction historical account of a woman's life than an immersive, emotional novel.

*I received a review copy from the publisher.* ( )
  Darcia | Oct 14, 2020 |
Over the years I have read all of Alice Hoffman’s books dealing with “practical Magic” and the descendants of Maria Owens and enjoyed them. This book was a standout for me. Maybe it is because this is where it all begins and her treatment of her characters is so complete.

Acknowledging that there is “no magic as coveted or as effective as that which used words” Ms. Hoffman has bested herself. The magic on the pages is real. She is a gifted and skillful writer who kept me entranced for over 400 pages. Whether describing the murder of a loved one which a small child is forced to watch or fighting with her heart and her love of an ordinary man, her grasp of the basic emotions is mesmerizing.

Hoffman sums up the book perfectly in the last 4 sentences:
“Read as many books as you can. Always chose courage. Never watch another woman burn. Know that love is the only answer.”

Thank you Simon & Schuster & NetGalley for a copy. ( )
  kimkimkim | Oct 7, 2020 |
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