I mentioned in my last #spellbooksaturday feature that I am making a conscious effort to read more fiction, and I’ve been reading a fair number of “witchy” novels in recent months, including…

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

In this “bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in “Practical Magic” and “The Rules of Magic.” Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back. When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters. Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.


The origin story for a beloved novel, Practical Magic, I had high hopes for Magic Lessons… hopes that never quite materialized, but admittedly they may have been unreasonable. I first read Practical Magic at 13, more than two decades ago. At that liminal age, I found Hoffman’s signature blend of magical realism and lyricism to be enchanting, and I thoroughly enjoyed some of Hoffman’s earlier work (Second Nature and Seventh Heaven in particular). Over time, however, the charm has worn thin for me, and Magic Lessons had a few sections that dragged for me. In it’s favor, Hoffman’s history is well-researched and engaging, and I found moments truly moving (SPOILER: the loss of a familiar is predictably devastating). While I’m not sure how it would stand alone were it not a prequel, I did enjoy the book overall, and would recommend it to fans of Practical Magic!


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  1. Margarete Brehm

    I loved this book when I read it. Loved reading about the witch that started Practical Magic. Also loved the one about the aunts when they were young, Rules of Magic. Agree that both of these books need you to read Practical Magic before getting into them, they don’t stand alone very well.

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