The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
I am lost for words with this book, firstly I am overjoyed Alice decided to do a prequel to the original story (book & film) of ‘Practical Magic’ and now upon reading this second book, it goes beyond expectation, it is so beautifully written! Maybe I am biased because I truly love Alice Hoffman’s writing style because I also fell in love with her historical, magical realist fiction ‘The DoveKeepers’ but this book did not disappoint. I particularly love the small anecdotes about herb & nature magic and of spells- Hoffman must have researched so much into this subject- Counting knots on a lilac bush could predict the number of cold spells, black pepper for aching muscles, fever-few for migraines & vervain for unrequited love. Amulets carrying apple seeds bring the wearer love- for apples signify the heart, rosemary oil with holly & hyssop protected you from your enemies and a bird flying into your home meant it could take your bad luck out the window. I felt like a starved creature devouring all this information, panting & howling at the moon thinking “Where have you been all my life?” and I want to know what books or resources Hoffman studied so that I may study them too!
But the story of the two sisters & their brother is also just as exquisite. The characters are very well developed and I felt connected to them almost instantly- Franny was my favourite.
In the first book Practical Magic– Franny & Jet are aunts to the main protagonists Sally & Gilly and actually don’t appear very often in the story, in the film they play a bigger part to the plot but still not much is known about these two women, they remained in the background but jumped out every so often like mysterious black cats. In The Rules of Magic, Franny & Jet take centered stage and we learn so much more about them, including the discovery they have a brother named Vincent, this is a shock to most Practical Magic lovers because the Owens history is extremely matriarchal- in that each woman usually births two daughters- one with black hair, the other with red hair- both with Grey eyes. It is stated in the prequel that boys are born every hundred years, meaning Vincent is a very powerful wizard, probably much more powerful than his sisters. As the story unfolds, you are acquainted with their gifts- Franny calls to the birds and learns to craft herbal medicines, Jet can read peoples thoughts & Vincent’s powers of seduction brings him trouble through out the book.
This book is enchanting from beginning to end, each word is crisp like autumn leaves and each chapter as sweeping as a soft summer’s day. The plot is as rich and earthy as a wild garden with so much grit and heartbreaking humanity interwoven like a spider casting a thick web-like spell over the reader- you can’t help but fall in love with the characters. This is a story of love, loss, cherishing life and being at peace with death (in all its forms). You’ll be reminded to live life as though its your last day on earth, have courage in your heart regardless of fear in your stomach and fall in love whenever you can because isn’t that what we are all here to experience?
I do hope they adapt this prequel into a film also, it would be a stunning visual origins tale of the Owens family, of the curse and of all the magic interlaced through out like delicious creeping vines.
Buy the Book here: The Rules of Magic
I also recommend reading Practical Magic. (Which you do not need to read first to enjoy its prequel).
Here are some other book reviews published on the blog:
Book Haul: Seven Magical Realist Novels I Recommend
Book review of Dream House by Catherine Armsden
Book review of Fen: A short story collect by Daisy Johnson
Book review of Rupi Kaur’s The Sun & her Flowers
Book Haul: Obscure Poetry Books I recommend
Book Haul: Empowering books for Wild women
Book review of Plum by Hollie McNish
Book review of The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwod-Hargrave
Book Haul: Picture books for little Yogis & ESL Learners
Review of The Rialto Poetry Magazine
Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
Book Review of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops By Jen Campbell
Book Review on Kinfolk Magazine issues 11 & 12
Beautiful children’s books part one
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans
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