‘The Rules of Magic’ by Alice Hoffman


Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society. The children’s mother had done exactly that. Susanna was one of the Boston Owenses, a family so old that the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Daughters of the American Revolution were unable to deny them admission to their exclusive organizations, despite the fact that they would have liked to close the door to them, locking it twice. Their original ancestor, Maria Owens, who had arrived in American in 1680, remained a mystery, even to her own family. No one knew who had fathered her child or could fathom how she came to build such a fine house when she was a woman alone with no apparent means of support. The lineage of those who followed Maria was equally dubious. Husbands disappeared without a trace. Daughters begat daughters. Children ran off and were never seen again. 


This novel surprised me, I picked it up randomly one day, having read the blurb and been intrigued, and I don’t think I have ever been so taken in by a novel that I had not heard of previously. To excuse the pun, it was magical.

I did not even realise it was a prequel and you do not have to have read ‘Practical Magic’ to understand, engage or enjoy this novel. Although, having not read ‘Practical Magic’,  I have seen the film (which I loved) and I really enjoyed making the little links to the sequel but if I hadn’t read it before, it would’t have taken away from the joy of this beautiful novel.

The novel follows the Owens family, focusing on siblings: Franny, Jet and Vincent, all different and all possessing their own abilities. The family have been blighted by a curse for centuries, with love being their destruction. However, each sibling strives to find their own path and navigate their way around the curse, to varying degrees of success. The desire to be accepted, ‘normal’ and loved are themes that all readers can relate to and Hoffman weaves these into a world steeped in magic.

Do not think this is a fantasy world where witches fly on broomsticks and the world that is created is not relatable. Instead, Hoffman uses magic realism to amalgamate our world with the subtleties of witchcraft: the ability to float, a close bond with animals, spells that bring love and superstitions. This novel makes me wish I was a witch.

Hoffman’s descriptions are delicate, emotive and vivid, transporting the reader to the stunning Owens home, with the quirky Aunt Isabelle. She gives the reader everything you could want from a novel: love, loss, ancient feuds, hatred, love, war, travel, strength in the face of adversity and magic. At times I was laughing, others smiling and feeling warm inside and then the next minute sobbing uncontrollably. ‘The Rules of Magic is a beautifully crafted novel that I thoroughly fell in love with.

To find out more information about Alice Hoffman visit her website, or buy The Rules of Magic from Amazon UK or Waterstones.


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