Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Magic Lessons: Book summary and reviews of Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons

The Prequel to Practical Magic

by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman X
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

In an unforgettable 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 "Unnamed 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 celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman's masterful storytelling.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Hoffman offers an eye-opening account of how single women were treated in the 17th century, particularly when their knowledge or intelligence was deemed threatening. [This] page-turning adventure is thoroughly enjoyable. Hoffman's redemptive story of a fiercely independent woman adds an engrossing, worthwhile chapter to the series." - Publisher's Weekly

"In Hoffman's luminous prose, all characters, even the villains, are not only vividly, but also compassionately, rendered...Hoffman adeptly highlights that how one uses a talent, selflessly or selfishly, has a sweeping impact on many lives, meaning that one should always choose courage, and that love is the only answer." - Booklist

"Master storyteller Hoffman's tale pours like cream but is too thick with plot redundancies and long-winded history lessons." - Kirkus Reviews

This information about Magic Lessons was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Cathryn Conroy

Bewitch Yourself with This Charming and Delightful Book
If you want a charming and delightful book that is perfect for those cooler autumn evenings, bewitch yourself with this, the second in the four-part series, by Alice Hoffman, the mistress of the genre of magical realism. (And, yes, you should read them in order beginning with the "The Rules of Magic.")

"Practical Magic" picks up where "The Rules of Magic" ended. Sally and Gillian, who were orphaned and sent to live with their aunts in their 200-year-old house in Massachusetts, have grown up. But true to all the Owens women throughout the generations, love hurts them. Sally happily marries and has two daughters of her own, Antonia and Kylie, but tragedy strikes. She flees to suburban New York where everyone is the same and no one thinks she's a witch. Gillian flees to the desert southwest where she marries frequently, divorces quickly, and suffers greatly. And then the unthinkable happens, forcing Gillian to return to Sally's home. These two women, who both have weird connections to the supernatural, begin on a perilous quest to save each other and create a future for themselves where love doesn't hurt.

This book is magical—not because of any "witchy"—but because of the life wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, much like fairy dust. The storytelling is enchanting, the characters are vivid, and there is just enough magic to make the book delightful. It's a real celebration of the power of women—and love.

Cloggie Downunder

Fans of the genre and this series will be enchanted,
“To any man who ever loves an Owens, let this curse befall you, let your fate lead to disaster, let you be broken in body and soul, and may it be that you never recover.”

Magic Lessons is a prequel in Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series. The curse that fosters angst in the lives of characters we meet in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic was spoken from the gallows in Salem in 1686 by their ancestor, Maria Owens.

This prequel follows her life from when, as a baby, she was found by Hannah Owens in a snowy field with the crow; taught much of the Unnamed Art into which she was born; watched the women around her betrayed by men who saw evil where there was none; vowed not to deal with love, but taken in anyway, by the father of her daughter, Faith and sent to the gallows by his word.

And after that gallows curse, the search for a taken child whose direction takes a turn to the darker arts. And finally, to the building of that house on Magnolia Street, via imprisonment and witch trials and dunkings. As expected, there are herbal recipes, spells and familiars and, of course, that pesky deathwatch beetle, but also good, true, patient men, brave and loyal friends, and love. Fans of the genre and this series will be enchanted, and looking forward to the final volume, The Book of Magic.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Australia.

lani

magic at its best
Alice Hoffman always has a beautiful way with words. I had not read her previous books, Practical Magic and Rules of Magic but that blunder will soon be assuaged. It certainly was not necessary to read the other books to understand and adore this novel. Wonderfully immersive, not only being a treatise on witchcraft, but is centrally a story about love. Love withheld, fear of love, all consuming love, love of friends and motherly love. This was also a commentary about the place of women in the 1600's where superstitions thrived, where women were subservient ,where women had no voice, could not publish or own property. Powerless under the edicts of men, they were thus coerced to have clandestine lives. Maria ,the main character in this novel, was cast off by her mother and taken in by Hannah, a sympathetic woman who taught her the arts of healing and so called"witchcraft". As time evolves she is smitten with a man and fools herself into thinking this is love, a feeling which produced a child. When she is abandoned by him, she sails to Salem to find him . As he cast her from his life she induced a magical spell that affected the rest of her life. Much follows from this point, between a sailor whom she saved from a mysterious illness and an attempt to find her daughter who was snatched from her life. Adventures abound , centering on one of the themes "You make love what you want it to be. You decide.You walked toward it or walk away."Excellently crafted and full of mysticism, this novel sucked me right in.

Sherry K

not sci-fi, not a fairy tale, just an enchanting story by a great story-teller
Even the title was off-putting to me. I do not even believe in magic. It is too much like science fiction to be on my favorites’ list. I am so glad that I overruled my first opinion!!
Surprise! This book is beautifully written about women in the mid-1600’s in Massachusetts, New York, along the upper East Coast. Women without rights, or voices, treated in their own homes as second class and even lower. It is particularly about witchery, sorcery, fantasy, witches from the good side and witches from the dark side. It is about love and healing, and potions, recipes; teas blended with herbs, flower petals, the bones and organs of baby sparrows. It is also about mothers and daughters, lovers and friends; drownings, burnings, abuse, dirty jails and hangings. And survival. ‘How did these events come to be and morph into so much evil in this time of the Salem witchcraft trails and hangings? This is the most that can be revealed without spoilers.’
Alice Hoffman takes a subject that is so far-fetched and bizarre and makes it real in a unique way. The reader loves the characters, even if they are not lovable. Most are quirky and some have a spell cast upon them and must perform in such a manner. The story is delivered brilliantly with historical incidents germane to the time, i.e. the Salem witch trials and subsequent beatings, abuse, and hangings
I recommend that you read this book She is an amazing storyteller. You will love it! I did and, incidentally, I did read it all. It is a prequel to another ‘magic-inspired’ books…I have already bought the next one.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Alice Hoffman Author Biography

Photo: Deborah Feingold

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and '74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Alice Hoffman's Website

Other books by Alice Hoffman at BookBrowse
  • The World That We Knew jacket
  • The Rules of Magic jacket

16 more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more fantasy, sci-fi, speculative, alt. history...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    A Kind of Madness
    by Uche Okonkwo
    The word "madness," like many others that can be used to stigmatize mental illness — e.g., "...
  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
    Long After We Are Gone
    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...
  • Book Jacket: Somehow
    Somehow
    by Anne Lamott
    Anne Lamott knows a thing or two about love. In fact, there is so much of it exuding from her essay ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.
Book Jacket
The Pecan Children
by Quinn Connor
Two sisters deeply tied to their small Southern town fight to break free of the darkness swallowing the land whole.
Win This Book
Win Bright and Tender Dark

Bright and Tender Dark by Joanna Pearson

A beautifully written, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A W in S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.