Book Review: The Rules of Magic

Synopsis from Goodreads:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Another winner from Alice Hoffman. Honestly, I think I would read almost anything she’s written and love it. The combination of relatable characters with magical moments seamlessly woven into the narrative just pushes all the right buttons for me.

If you’ve read Practical Magic already, The Rules of Magic focuses now on the stories of the Aunts, who Gillian and Sally go to live with, as well as their brother, Vincent. The book is set mostly in the 1960s, a time of a lot of changes in society, and is set mostly in New York City, which was additionally fun for me because my mum grew up there in and she’s mentioned many of the locations that appear in this book as part of her stories of growing up. The three siblings each have their sorrows and losses to work through in their lives, and I appreciated Hoffman’s deft handling of each, keeping the characters unique but with a common thread of love running through each one’s personal tale. While I would love to have Jet as a friend, I think I can relate to Frannie most closely, and this is one of Hoffman’s gifts – creating characters who seem to step off the page with all their quirks and foibles.

I was struck by one chapter in this book where Vincent is being questioned by a psychiatrist and although he tells them the truth, they, of course, think he’s having a psychotic episode but in this seemingly simple passage, since you’ve accepted that Vincent can do all the things he says he can do earlier in the book, you have to accept that he’s NOT crazy. As with all of Hoffman’s books that I’ve read, she’s able to subtly include deeper things to think about – and how close her magical world comes to our own. It’s a small step to move from what we know is our reality to another similar world but one with more magic in it. (Or maybe it is actually our world with more magic, but we just can’t see it.)

“Writing itself was a magical act in which imagination altered reality and gave form to power.” I couldn’t agree more.

Note: I listened to the audiobook version of this one. A good narrator who was able to bring all the characters to life with an easygoing vocal style that made it easy to listen to.

This is book 15/20 for the 20 Books of Summer challenge.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Rules of Magic

  1. I haven’t read any of her books. I’ve watched Practical Magic (with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock) which I didn’t particularly enjoy. But everyone says the film is very different from the books, so perhaps I will give the books a chance some day. 🙂 Great review!

    1. I liked the book better than the movie. That said, I liked Rules of Magic even better so having seen the movie you have enough info on the Owens family to start with that one if you feel you’d like to give her writing a go. 🙂

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