Thursday 1 December 2022

Book Review | Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman | prettylittlewriter

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...’

This was a very hard-going novel. Not because it was bad per-say, but because there were NO CHAPTERS. The book had sections, and within those sections, there was maybe one or two parts where the section had a ‘pause’ between each paragraph, but otherwise, they were complete full longass paragraphs that are SO hard for me to end with, I like to finish reading once I’ve completed chapter. Therefore, this book has taken me a long time to finish (I did read another book in-between as I had a book tour review to do also).

I don’t often say this, but this was definitely a case of ‘prefer the movie to the book’! I don’t know for sure if it’s because I’ve been watching the movie religiously for years every spooky season, but the movie is a lot less harsh on the characters, and I found myself disliking certain characters within the book too that I actually really like in the movie.

For example, Sally’s children. We don’t really see a lot of them in the movie, and when we do they are very sweet and kind characters, and quite young. Within the novel however, Antonia is a bitch throughout to her younger sister Kylie, and Kylie also turns into a bit of a bitch as she starts treating both her Mum and Aunt by pranking Gillian when she gets a boyfriend (out of spite and jealously) and verbally abusing her mum constantly.

One thing that was really prominent throughout is how much emphasis is put on beauty within the novel. Each character have moments where they do not think they are good enough because of their beauty, they have either made a change, or because they aren’t getting attention from a man they are no longer good enough. It was quite difficult to read some of these parts as it made me quite angry!

In the movie, we all knew Gillian was beautiful, with her doe eyes and stunning hair, but it wasn’t what the whole story was about, they made it more about what had happened to Gillian in the hands of Jimmy, and learning to grow and find love again, especially with Sally after losing her husband.

This was another thing that I was really upset about within this novel. We were introduced to the curse on the Owen’s love life, as Sally’s husband died with the beetle around, but then the curse was never mentioned again; but Gillian fell in love and got married again, and then Sally also eventually fell in love with someone again too. At least within the movie, it seemed that Sally broke the curse once she met the man that she had wished for as a child, the man that she created that shouldn’t have existed, but did. There just seemed to be no explanation and no rhyme or reason for the curse the exist if it wasn’t going to be broken.

I was however, pleased that Gillian found love again within the book, and Ben seemed like the perfect man for her. We also didn’t really get much from the relationship between Sally and Gary. We did get certain parts of the novel from Gary’s POV and his attraction to Sally, but the development of their relationship after their first two interactions was very sparce.

The book is actually very dark compared to the movie, with some quite upsetting scenes, including unwanted sexual advances towards a child, so this surprised me as the movie feels to me like a cup of warm cocoa on a cold autumn night. It makes me feel cosy, and happy, whereas reading this book, I was often quite upset for the characters, and furious.

The book was very well written, with some great descriptions of the characters and their surroundings, I felt like I could see Sally’s home quite clearly in my mind, and also Jimmy’s oldsmobile. You could feel the magical elements of the novel emanating from the book, like magic was absolutely everywhere and you could turn away from the book with your own magical powers, which was a very beautiful feeling.

I think Alice is a very talented writer, and I’m sure a lot of people absolutely adore this book, especially if they haven’t watched the movie, however, I just can’t get on board with it. It’s too different, I love the movie way too much, Gillian was a spoilt brat throughout the novel, and although she was a bit wild and a free bird in the movie, at least she was likeable and you felt sorry for her!

So overall, personally, I did slightly enjoyed the novel, certain parts of it were good and I liked having a little more depth to the characters, but personally, I love the movie way too much to really rate this more than a 3 star, and I felt there were lots of really dark and harsh parts within the novel that I didn’t really enjoy.

3/5 stars

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