Halloween Book & Movie Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted October 31, 2016 by Melissa in 2016 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge, Book promo, Book Review, Movie Review | 24 Comments


Happy Halloween!!

Today I wanted to revisit one of my favorite magical stories and movies!!

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman!!

Practical Magic – The Book
Halloween Book & Movie Review: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanTitle: Practical Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Putnam Adult, Warner Bros.
Publication date: June 13th 1995
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Paranormal
Length: 244 Pages
Source: Library
Find It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
My Rating:

The bestselling author of Second Nature, Illumination Night and Turtle Moon now offers her most fascinating and tantalizingly accomplished novel yet — a winning tale that amply confirms Alice Hoffman’s reputation not only as a genius of the vivid scene and unforgettable character but as one of America’s most captivating storytellers.

When the beautiful and precocious sisters Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age, they are taken to a small Massachusetts town to be raised by their eccentric aunts, who happen to dwell in the darkest, eeriest house in town. As they become more aware of their aunts’ mysterious and sometimes frightening powers — and as their own powers begin to surface — the sisters grow determined to escape their strange upbringing by blending into “normal” society.

But both find that they cannot elude their magic-filled past. And when trouble strikes — in the form of a menacing backyard ghost — the sisters must not only reunite three generations of Owens women but embrace their magic as a gift — and their key to a future of love and passion. Funny, haunting, and shamelessly romantic, Practical Magic is bewitching entertainment — Alice Hoffman at her spectacular best.

Favorite Quotes from the Book

“…they still won’t learn what Ben knows until they fall head over heels in love. When they don’t care if they make fools of themselves, when taking a risk seems the safest thing to do, and walking a tightrope or throwing themselves into the white-water rapids feels like child’s play compared with a single kiss, then they’ll understand.”

“Pride is a funny thing; it can make what is truly worthless appear to be a treasure. As soon as you let go of it, pride shrinks to the size of a fly, but one that has no head, and no tail, and no wings with which to lift itself off the ground.”

“One more lie and she’ll be truly lost, One more and she’ll never find her way back through the woods.”

“Although she’d never believe it, those lines in Gillian’s face are the most beautiful part about her. They reveal what she’s gone through and what she’s survived and who exactly she is, deep inside.”

“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”


My Thoughts

Practical Magic is the perfect blend of the real and the magical.

Starting with two orphaned girls being raised by their “unconventional” aunts…the book then blossoms into an examination of family relationships, true love, and what hope and belief really mean.

The relationships between the Aunts (Frances and Bridget-known as Jet), the girls (Sally and Gillian), and Sally’s children (Antonia and Kylie) develop and change over the 30 year or so time-span of the book in a way that is absolutely something beautiful. The growth of all of these characters, the hard lessons learned, the joy and wonder embraced…make it a treasure even aside from it’s magic.

But this book does indeed also have a very magical side. There is magic woven through the Owens family dating back hundreds of years. The Aunts actively practice love magic for the town’s women, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Sally and Gillian struggle though out their lives wavering between embracing what they are and rejecting it in the attempt to live a more normal life. By the conclusion, after one particularly hard lesson is learned, they seem to have found that balance…

Alice Hoffman’s writing is perfection. her books always envelop me and I never want them to end.

Note: I would have given this a full 5 stars if not for the element of animal sacrifice involved in the Aunts love magic.

All the lovely book covers!

I love them all and wanted to share!

Here are some of the many American versions:


And some International Versions:



Practical Magic – The Movie
Halloween Book & Movie Review: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanTitle: Practical Magic (1998)
Author: Alice Hoffman, Robin Swicord
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Publication date: October 16 1998
Target Audience: PG-13
Length: 1hr 44min
Buy It: Amazon|B&N
My Rating:

The wry, comic romantic tale follows the Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian, as they struggle to use their hereditary gift for practical magic to overcome the obstacles in discovering true love.

Sally and Gillian Owens have always known they were different. Raised by their aunts after their parents' death, the sisters grew up in a household that was anything but typical--their aunts fed them chocolate cake for breakfast and taught them the uses of practical magic. But the invocation of the Owens' sorcery also carries a price--some call it a curse: the men they fall in love with are doomed to an untimely death. Now adult women with very different personalities, the quiet Sally and the fiery Gillian must use all of their powers to fight the family curse and a swarm of supernatural forces that threatens the lives of all the Owens women.

Favorite Quotes from the Movie

“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage!”


“And this is what comes from dabbling; I mean you can’t practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.”

“Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean. The moon tonight, there’s a circle around it. Sign of trouble not far behind. I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing… I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for. I just want someone to love me. I want to be seen. I don’t know. Maybe I had my happiness. I don’t want to believe it but, there is no man, Gilly. Only that moon.”

“You ever put your arms out and spin really, really fast? She does? Well, that’s what love is like. It makes your heart race. It turns the world upside down. But if you’re not careful, if you don’t keep your eyes on something still, you can lose your balance. You can’t see what’s happening to the people around you. You can’t see that you’re about to fall.”

“Curses only have power when you believe them. And I don’t.”

“Trouble is just like love, after all; it comes in unannounced and takes over before you’ve had a chance to reconsider, or even to think.”

“It has power because you believe it does.”

“Every problem has a solution, although it may not be the outcome that was originally hoped for or expected.”


My Thoughts

I watched this movie many years ago before reading the novel and then again last night after finishing the book. I am quite shocked to admit that although I have yet to find a movie version that surpasses the book–this one comes quite close.

The movie captures the essence of the book startlingly well although it does veer off in many aspects. A few examples:

  • In the book Gillian is fully responsible for Jimmy’s death (or so we think) and in the movie it is actually Sally who kills him.
  • In the book they simply bury him under the lilacs and in the movie they attempt to raise him with no good result.
  • In the book Gillian also finds true love while in the movie we only see Sally’s relationship with Gary.
  • In the book Jimmy haunts the house and it’s residents poltergeist style while in the movie he possesses Gillian.

Overall though, I honestly feel like the movie did a great job of bringing the magical elements and the heart/belief behind them to life.

Despite the fact that critics may not agree with me (Practical Magic is so underrated!) , I think that Practical Magic is practically perfect in every way!


Happy Halloween Everyone and just remember:


Melissa's 5 Star Review of Practical Magic by @ahoffmanwriter (Book & Movie) #HappyHalloween #Witch #Magic Click To Tweet

About Alice Hoffman

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 and New York.

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, including two 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. BLACKBIRD HOUSE is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman’s other books include AQUARMARINE and INDIGO, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers THE RIVER KING, BLUE DIARY, THE PROBABLE FUTURE, and THE ICE QUEEN. GREEN ANGEL, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and THE FORETELLING, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. Little Brown also 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. In January 2007, SKYLIGHT CONFESSIONS, a novel about one family’s secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Hoffman’s first novel.


Her next novel, FAITHFUL, will be released November 1, 2016.

Hoffman’s work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay “Independence Day,” a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Weist. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel AQUAMARINE was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

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24 responses to “Halloween Book & Movie Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

    • Melissa

      I hate that too…watching a movie and then finding out it was based on a book! Hope you get the chance to pick it up!

  1. I ADORE this post! Practical Magic is one of my most favorite movies, and I can’t believe I haven’t read the book (I’m usually such a stickler for book before movie)! I’m so happy to hear that the movie adaptation was done well with only a few differences. I love the quotes and images you included — and those covers! The movie is on Netflix now so I think I’m going to watch it again and then grab a copy of the book! Wonderful reviews! Happy Halloween 🙂
    Michele recently posted…Review: And Then She Was Gone (Jack Stratton) by Christopher GreysonMy Profile

    • Melissa

      I’m shocked! LOL It’s a great book and possibly an even better movie…at least if you like that sort of thing…which I most certainly do!

    • Melissa

      Oh, I’ve only seen the movie version of that one but I can guarantee this is much different. Think Hallmark channel with a dark side.

    • Melissa

      Hmmm…not exactly sure if it would be your thing, Anna…but if you have any interest I definitely recommend checking it out. the movie is on Netflix 🙂

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