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on February 28, 2000
Being the odd one out in a community is not a new problem but when you've got a family history like the Owens' it's the most likely outcome. For Sally and Gillian the family secret- the power of the super-natural/ witchcraft has lead to a lonely life, but they overcome all problems. The story of Practical Magic follows the lives of two sisters on their paths of life but always in the background their aunts keep a watchful eye. The story follows their love for eachother and for the men in their lives but in the back of the story is the idea of a family cursed throughout the generations. I would give this book top marks; it is the type of book that you could read over and over again and never tire of it. "Keep rosemary by your garden gate; Plant lavender for luck; And fall in love whenever you can."
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on February 5, 2016
I hardly ever say this but the movie was better. (That was painful to write). I enjoyed the movie over the years and I thought the book would be better so I bought it. Unfortunately, the plot was all over the place and it just didn't work.
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on June 18, 2015
*SPOILERS*: I saw the movie before reading the book, so I was expecting a light-hearted story, and hoping to find a new (to me) author to read. The kind of love described in this book is torturous, dark, violent and extreme. I get that it's supposed to be about passionate love, but the characters suffer from it so much and benefit so little that it left me wondering why the author would sit down and write such a thing - unrequited love rant, perhaps, given how mysandrist it gets sometimes? There are some minor problems, like how the book flat out states what the characters' issues are, as in "she had abandonment issues from her parents leaving", and then repeats that same thing several times, which is annoying. Show me, don't tell me. There's almost no dialog, which makes the pace move very slowly. And although the writing has many lovely, interesting descriptions, it cannot save the book from the very worst paragraph of the whole thing, one about Gary Hallet. This was my major issue. It was so bad I had to not only sit down to write this review about it, but I had to go back and find the page so I could make sure I read it right (252 if you are unfortunate enough to have already bought a copy). In the movie, he's a classic good-guy cop. In the book, he basically wants to rape Sally, but decides not to, NOT BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE WRONG OR HURT HER OR ANYTHING, but because he's not the type of guy to be "led around by his dick". I'm not kidding, that's a quote. He doesn't rape her because that would make him be out-of-control, not because he cares for her feelings, wishes, or desires. And this is what the author thinks romantic love is??? I think I finished this book because I was waiting to see if maybe it would get better, if Gary's love could be more gentle than that of the other characters (e.g. Jimmy, who actually acted violent and awful), but it wasn't. And sure, he doesn't actually hurt Sally, but the way it's treated, as if the fact that he wants to shows how much he truly loves her, is just a major turn-off. As I said before, I find the way men are talked about in this book to be mysandrist, as if they can have either no real feelings for women or too many (to the point that everyone gets hurt by them), and the women... I don't even know what to say about the women. They just have too many feelings all the time, I guess. Usually I would donate or sell books when I'm done with them. I recycled this one.
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on May 19, 2006
Much like the other reviewers, I only came to this book after falling in love with the film adaptation. It is entirely impossible for me to discern which of the two is better- I'll leave that distinction up to you! My preference seems to really depend on the mood I am in.

For those of you who are unacquainted with the film, I can tell you that this is a highly enjoyable, but at times heart-wrenching story. This is especially so in the novel. It tackles heavy subject matter, including death, lust, the pains of adolescence, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. This story follows the lives of several characters as they move through life, always trying to run from their past and their upbringing, but never quite winning the battle, no matter how hard they try. What makes this gritty story so special though, is the magic that weaves in and out of the lives of these characters. The author presents this magic as completely matter of fact. It is just a part of the lives and world of these character, whether they buy into it or not, making it more a fascinating part of the setting than a spotlight in the story. Those who have viewed the film know that magic is essential to the plot in many ways, and is one of the main focuses of the film, but in the novel, we can see that it plays second fiddle to the intimate details of these characters' lives.

Overall, I was impressed with the scope of this story and the messages that rang true over and over as I flew through the pages. This story is intense, dark, tense, and sensual - a very enjoyable combination. If you like a good dollop of witchiness with your tea and often find a little bit of magic interspersed into your own life, you will certainly be in good company here.

The only reason the book gets four stars is because I was at times a bit distracted by the author's writing style. It takes an imaginative reader to make it through this story. The way the author writes is very blunt. She spells the plot out for you, but seems to struggle with spreading descriptive information seamlessly into the work. Sometimes there is beautiful prose describing a scene or a sensation a character is feeling, but other times, the words simply guide the reader through a progression of events. If the author had been able to integrate more detailed description into the overall plot, this novel could have been improved.

Still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book, especially to anyone who likes emotional stories with a solid plot and a basis in magical realism.
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on August 17, 2015
I really wanted to like this more then I did. Like many reviewers, I had seen the movie first before even knowing about the book. I read some of the reviews so I knew the books and the movie were different, and after reading the book, the movie is better.

I loved the story, it was written beautifully, but there just wasn't as much going on as there could of been, I spent about half of the story bored, and I considered to just stop reading it altogether.

I'm glad I finished it though. I love the subtle magic, and I really enjoyed each character.....there is just not much going on. Like, at all.

It was annoying how madly in love Gillian and Sally were with their guys immediately, with no real reason.
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on November 23, 1999
I saw the movie before I read the book and I absolutely loved the movie. I decided to try the book. It was one of the most fascinating reading experiences I have ever embarked upon. There are only two other authors who bring me that depth of involvement-- Madeleine L'Engle and Lucy Maud Montgomery. But Hoffman has a narrative style that makes me think that this is a story that one should read aloud or hear from someone. She captures you from beginning to end with the weave of narrative. I read each section of the book without stopping within a section. To have stopped in a section would have taken away from the narrative flow.
It is best to look at the book and the movie as two separate stories. They must be told differently because they are different media. The movie medium is sound and pictures, so the narrative cannot be the same as the book, a medium which relies on words. You could not have translated Hoffman's story as it was into a movie. This is why I'm glad that the movie is so much different than the book. Each is a good story on its own and could have only been told the way it was in the medium it was produced in.
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on April 17, 2013
Usually, the book beats any movie hands down, but I actually preferred the movie here because it was simply that much more exciting. The book goes on for a really long time about Sally & Gillian's troubled childhood and upbringing, and neither character is as likeable as in the film, which perhaps is the point - they are meant to be darker, more hard done-by characters. The aunts are not nearly as prevalent in the book as well, and as I recall, don't even show up until the end. The other time I preferred the movie was "Chocolat" for the same reason - the book drones on and on about backstory and takes forever to get to any action.
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on April 17, 2009
You've read the summary, so I'll just cut to the chase. First of all, loved, loved, loved Hoffman's 'voice' and use of language: Gillian's passion for her new biology teacher lover melts all the butter in the house, a woman pounds on her lover's door until she literally breaks her hand -- Hoffman is very good at powerful, evocative images, at gliding on the surface and gazing at the tempestuous emotions below her.

However, everything else about this novel began to irritate me before long. Hoffman was obsessed with pairing everyone up, down to the last obnoxious teenager, and the only romance that held any appeal for me was the one between Gillian and Ben. Gary (Sally's love interest) was boring and entered the story much too late for me. (He doesn't seem to be a very good investigator, either.) Also, the swearing seemed unnecessary, as if it came out of a different book. I might try Hoffman again, but I won't be re-reading this one.
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on April 24, 2015
Think of this book and the movie as two separate stories that sprang from similar foundations.
If you think of them as if they're supposed to be the same story, you'll be disappointed with both stories, but if you think of them separately, they're both still amazing.
As a pagan myself and a complete jerk, I read this mostly because I wanted to see how much she got wrong about witchcraft, and then suddenly, I was too distracted to even notice, although I did pick up that she was far too accurate with the sense of guilt that comes with the result of a love spell of any sort, be it a good result or a bad one. I watched the movie some time later and wasn't bothered by the differences in the plot. It felt like a completely different story and that story was just as good.
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on March 6, 2016
This book was picked for my book club. I had seen the movie many years ago but never read the book before. It was cute and a fun light read. It was very different from the movie. I kept wishing there was more magic in the book like what was in the movie though. I probably would have liked the book more if I would have read it before I saw the movie. I really liked both though.
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