Review: Practical Magic

There comes a time when we all must come clean, and so I will do so now – with you.  I saw Practical Magic in the theater before I knew it was based upon a book.  Even worse?  I didn’t read the book until more than a decade after having seen the movie.  Not that I stopped watching the movie in the mean time since I LOVE it.  Easily one of the few movies I watch whenever I need a bit of hope and a pick me up while still getting a bit of a cry out in some of the more powerful scenes.  Even with “Based upon the novel by Alice Hoffman” coming up on the screen I still managed to always forget about picking it up at the bookstore.  Well, thanks to a gift card from a friend, and a review by a lovely blogging buddy, I finally picked it up and devoured it.

The story chronicles the lives of two sisters, Sally and Gillian Owens, as they grow up with their aunts who seem to possess a gift of meddling in people’s love lives.  For a fee, of course.  Sally, on the other hand, is fastidiously proper and has taken over the role of mother hen to all in the house – a reaction seemingly born of her newly orphaned status, while her sister Gillian continuously runs from commitment and love to avoid being left.

It is a tale that takes place over decades.  Each young girl grows, makes choices, and moves into adulthood, but it is Sally we mainly follow.  Her transitions through girlhood, to wife and mother, then to widow and the escape from her aunts’ home and the childhood taunting she had endured to a home of her own where she raises her daughters alone.   A woman gone rigid, who did what was “right” for her children, and who stayed alone is the portrait of Sally we see.  There is little of compassion to be had for this character at a certain point.  Her world is her children, unhealthily so, and upon them she places her expectations and demands, to carry out what they’re supposed to be doing.  And then, like a foreboding breeze, Gillian pulls into the driveway with her dead boyfriend in the car.

Wonderfully, the story evolves into one of relationships, the complexities and difficulties, the battles we have with ourselves in order to protect ourselves or perhaps the opportunity for sane risks to take in pursuit of love.  Gillian, Sally, and Sally’s daughters Antionia and Kylie are all three dimensional characters with wants, drives, and evolution while the supporting cast of male characters suffers not at all in the short times we get to know them.  It’s a remarkable and wonderful read with bits of magic, ecstasy, trauma, and joy.

The only complaint that I feel necessary to give voice to is the apparent need of Hoffman to use the f-bomb throughout the first 2/3 of the book instead of any other term for sex.  As a reader I felt it diminished the act in ways that were wholly inappropriate to character voice in those sections, that it might have been the author herself sneering at the idea of reverent sex.  While I do not need, nor do I believe in, each act of sex as qualifying for the term “making love” I do think that the word (brace yourselves) fuck should only be used where applicable, either as a curse or in description of a very particular mode of a physical act.    Still, the book was wonderful and very much worth checking out.

Have you read it?  Seen the movie?  What are your thoughts on the “f” word?


8 responses to “Review: Practical Magic

  • resourcetherapy

    I always think the “f” word is overrated. Having sex is so different from making love that those two words do not mean the same for me at all. I tend to see f_____g as a derogatory term that means the woman is abused or at the very least, treated as a hole in the wall might be.
    Even animals can be said to have sexual relationships. Some of them do appear to care for each other. I think it is time humans did too. Perhaps, one day, when each one of us can love our self as much as we espouse to love another, making love will happen globally. ❤

  • laurelrainsnow

    I read the book first and then saw the movie. I even have the DVD. I did like the portrayals by the actors Bullock and Kidman. I barely remember the book, at this point, which means: reread time!

    As for the “f-bomb,” as you put it, I usually reserve that usage for certain kinds of characters. Gritty ones, where one can imagine that person speaking like that. Then my more “sedate” characters use other expressions….

  • Arlee Bird

    I’m not really familiar with the book or the movie.
    I don’t like it when “fuck” is overused or used expessly as an expletive. In certain context I don’t mind it and think it’s a somewhat okay word that has been sullied by improper use and bad connotations.

    Make sure you check my Wednesday post!
    Tossing It Out

  • litlove

    I really loved this book, and it fell just right for me, at a time when I was in the mood for something tender and funny and eccentric. I think the f-word sticks out a bit because it’s incongruent with Hoffman’s voice, which is gentle and wry. But I suppose in all honestly I’m not bothered by it – I resent my reading being disrupted by gruesome descriptions of wounds or operations much more! Oh and I then went on to watch the movie, which was good, but I like the book best (not unusual for me!). Thank you for the link – you are such a sweetheart!

  • Teresa

    Your review rocks! I have not seen the movie (which I don’t understand) nor read the book.

    The fbomb would distract me. Of course, I’m easily distracted. 🙂

    I need to rent the movie.

  • Carol Kilgore

    I saw the movie, and I think it’s time to rent it for re-seeing. I remember I liked it, but that’s about all I recall. I haven’t read the book, so thanks for the review.

  • Tina DC Hayes

    I really liked the movie but haven’t read the book. Alice Hoffman is a great writer, so I need to get myself a copy, cuz as we all well know the books are usually way better than screen versions.

    F-bombs don’t bother me, but I agree they shouldn’t be just thrown in gratuitously. But they can give more punch and impact at times. I’ve yet to read this book, but you have me wondering if Hoffman’s use of the F-bomb, if attributed to one particular MC, might have been used to show insight to the character? Either way, I’m going to see if my library has a copy 🙂

  • jessicabookworm

    I LOVE the film…and was also completely oblivious to the fact that it was a book! Shame about the F word I’m not a fan of it either but I still I will need to check this out at some point 🙂

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