The BookBrowse Review

Published September 16, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

Magic Lessons
The Prequel to Practical Magic
by Alice Hoffman
6 Oct 2020
416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 9781982108847
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Speculative, Alt. History
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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.

"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

Write your own review

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by 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.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by 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.

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 ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published over thirty novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Hoffman's advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Hoffman has written a number of novels for young adults, including Aquamarine, Green Angel, and the New York Time bestseller The Ice Queen. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year.

The Dovekeepers, the story of the survivors of Masada is considered by many to be Hoffman's masterpiece. The New York Times bestselling novel was adapted for television in a 2015 miniseries, produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, starring Cote de Pablo of NCIS fame.

Her most recent novels have received many accolades, and are New York Times bestsellers. They include The Museum of Extraordinary Things, The Marriage of Opposites, and Faithful. Her newest novel, The Rules of Magic, is the prequel to her cult-classic Practical Magic. It was selected as a LibraryReads and IndieNext List Pick for October 2017 and is one of the Most Anticipated Books on iTunes. Reese Witherspoon picked it as her October 2017 Book Club read, remarking that the "story is full of magic, love, family, heartbreak and redemption." Set in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, The Rules of Magic is a timeless story that reminds us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

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