Title: Practical Magic (Practical Magic # 2)
Author: Alice Hoffman
Genre: Fantasy, Literary
Date of Publication: August 5, 2003
Practical Magic follows Owens sisters Gillian and Sally as they live their lives. They grow up in a town in Massachusetts where their family is shunned by the entire town. It is believed that the women in their household are responsible for every terrible (or even mildly inconvenient) thing that happens. As adults, the sisters part ways, escaping the town to find better lives, but they’re inexplicably drawn back together.
I fell in love with the writing style within the first few lines. Hoffman is both eloquent and tantalizing with each word that she has so carefully selected. It begins with a narrative setting the scene, but around fifty pages in, I realized that the whole book was like this. It’s too much narrative. Pages after pages of long paragraphs, with very little action to move the plot forward. Every now and then there is dialogue, but the nature of the narrative pulls the reader away from what is happening. I couldn’t truly connect with what was happening.
Not only is the book beautifully written, but it is beautifully twisted. This is revealed early on in the story, and was one of Practical Magic’s saving graces for me. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t had that darkness seeping into an otherwise seemingly innocuous story.
I love how Hoffman incorporated little tidbits of witchcraft into her descriptions of things:
“Never presume August is a safe or reliable time of the year. It is the season of reversals, when the birds no longer sing in the morning and the evenings are made up of equal parts golden light and black clouds. The rock-solid and the tenuous can easily exchange places until everything you know can be questioned and put into doubt.”
If only the entire book had been passages like this, without any pesky plot to get in the way of my enjoyment.
I had a hard time relating to the characters. They’re all quite selfish (which, weirdly, is normally relatable for me ;)), but they had very unlikable characteristics attributed to each of them. I didn’t appreciate how each one of them (aside from Sally) was preoccupied with their looks. Even Hoffman, in her describing of characters, never spent much time talking about their other traits. The way Gillian has literally every man falling head over heels in love with her was a tad tedious. There was also too much of this “falling in love at first sight” nonsense. It was amusing with Gillian, because she did it a million times, but every character did it, which made it less amusing and more aggravating.
Mild spoilers between the glasses!
There isn’t much to the plot, other than the characters falling in love many times. I did appreciate the character development between the younger sisters, Antonia and Kylie, but it didn’t quite make up for the irritating first nine tenths of the book.
When Gillian kills her boyfriend and buries him in the backyard, I thought, Finally! This is getting interesting! But not much of interest happened after that. Not even when someone came knocking on their door to investigate…
I recommend this book to those who love an engrossing writing style, but aren’t expecting a lot in the form of plot. The characters are a major appeal for this book, and it’s hard to determine who will like them and who will not. I suggest you give the book a shot if you’re wanting to read a book about witchcraft that isn’t a horror or a romance.
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