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Practical Magic Paperback – August 5, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reissue edition (August 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425190374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425190371
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (320 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Her 11th novel is Hoffman's best since Illumination Night. Again a scrim of magic lies gently over her fictional world, in which lilacs bloom riotously in July, a lovesick boy's elbows sizzle on a diner countertop and a toad expectorates a silver ring. The real and the magical worlds are almost seamlessly mixed here, the humor is sharper than in previous books, the characters' eccentricities grow credibly out of their past experiences and the poignant lessons they learn reverberate against the reader's heartstrings, stroked by Hoffman's lyrical prose. The Owens women have been witches for several generations. Orphaned Sally and Gillian Owens, raised by their spinster aunts in a spooky old house, grow up observing desperate women buying love potions in the kitchen and vow never to commit their hearts to passion. Fate, of course, intervenes. Steady, conscientious Sally marries, has two daughters and is widowed early. Impulsive, seductive Gillian goes through three divorces before she arrives at Sally's house with a dead body in her car. Meanwhile, Sally's daughters, replicas of their mother and their aunt, experience their own sexual awakenings. The inevitability of love and the torment and bliss of men and women gripped by desire is Hoffman's theme here, and she plays those variations with a new emphasis on sex scenes?there's plenty of steamy detail and a pervasive use of the f-word. The dialogue is always on target, particularly the squabbling between siblings, and, as usual, weather plays a portentous role. Readers will relish this magical tale. BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Mary Chrapliwy VINE VOICE on May 31, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The movie version of this story is one of the most fun, exhilerating movies - a favorite in this household. This book bears very little relation to the movie. The only similarities are that the main characters exist as they do in the movie, but they don't live with the aunts and magic is not quite the focus as it was in the movie.
Now, that said ...
This is one of the best books I've had the opportunity to read. Written in the beautiful prose Alice Hoffman is so well known for, it follows the life of Gillian and Sally as they go on their diverse paths. Sally is the stable widow with two girls in tow. She leaves the aunts in New England, leaving her sad life behind, and moves to a Long Island suburb with her two girls where tries to live a normal life. Meanwhile, Gillian is a bad girl who is in and out of relationships and in and out of trouble. She finds the awful, abusive Jimmy and eventually kills him accidentally while enroute to visit her sister. Unsure of what to do, she brings him to her sister's house dead in the passenger seat of the car - she thinks stable Sally would know what to do to keep her out of jail. Sally meets the situation with borderline hysteria at first, then the two decide to bury him in Sally's backyard. Gillian moves in with Sally and her girls and tries to forget the body in the back yard. Sally's boring, stable life changes dramatically while Gillian's naughty life changes to a more stable one. Meanwhile they are haunted by the evil spirit of Jimmy, threatening to destroy the tenuous stability they try to build.
This book is not written in standard chapters - instead it is written in four large sections. Fortunately there are enough scene breaks in each section that you can put it down and read it in separate sittings.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
That is an admonishment at the end of this wonderful book by Alice Hoffman. I'll preface my mini-review here with the following statement: Had anyone told me a year ago that I would read --in one day-- a romance about lives and loves of successive generations of women blessed or cursed with witchy powers, I would have laughed at them. A few years back, I tried to watch the movie "Practical Magic" and found myself thoroughly bored by what I considered a talky "chick flick." Since then, I've become a fan of Sandra Bullock and recently saw the film again, and found myself liking it for the most part. I particularly loved the sad, wistful character played by Bullock, that of Sally Owens.
So I checked the book out from the library, not knowing what to expect, and like a man in the story who becomes enchanted by a letter Sally writes that comes into his possession, "Practical Magic" hooked me. Hoffman writes with such easy, beautiful prose and the characters really spring to life and find a place in your heart and imagination.
I won't regurgitate the plot here. But I will say that Hoffman writes so well about perhaps the most exquisite and maybe the rarest kind of love, the type that hits both a man and a woman like a thunderbolt, overpowering and sweeping them both away. Hoffman's descriptions of this happening to Sally and her sister and the two men that they are destined to be with packs a tremendous and very satisfying emotional punch for any romantic, which I guess I am. Oh, how I found myself envying the lucky men who won the hearts of Sally and Gillian! To feel love as strong as that and be loved as fiercely in return must be the best thing in the world.
So read the book and like Sally Owens would say, fall in love whenever you can.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My first taste of Alice Hoffman was Here on Earth. While the prose was beautiful, I was disappointed in the characters and plot. However, deep in my gut, I had a feeling there was more to Alice Hoffman than what she was displaying in that book. I couldn't write her off with all of the books she had written, and I felt there was more to her than I was shown. So, I did a little research and took some of her books out of the library. The second book I read was, Practical Magic, and I'm glad to see my instincts were right.
This bewitching, captivating novel is full of spellbounding characters, which is the main thing that was missing from Here on Earth.
Sally and Gillian are sisters who, because of the passing of their parents, end up getting raised by their two aunts, who are witches. Because of this, the sisters are ostrasized a bit from their peers, and long to be free from the house and the Aunts on Magnolia Street.
Raven-haired Sally is the older of the two sisters. She's practical, hard-working, good, responsible, and afraid to love. Golden-haired Gillian is wild, lazy, coniving, airy, and also afraid to love.
Gillian is the first to escape, by running off with a boy. She moves from town to town, from guy to guy, with three failing marriages behind her, before she shows up on her sister's doorstep with the dead body of her recent boyfriend, Jimmy, in the car.
Sally, who continued to stay with the Aunts, fell in love and got married to a wonderful man named Michael, finding a happy life of her own. She had a man she loved, and two daughters, Antonia and Kylie. Her world came crumbling down on her when Michael got killed by a drunk driver.
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