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  • Tracy Sherlock

Book Review: The Book of Magic filled with eternal wisdom

The Book of Magic

Alice Hoffman

Simon & Schuster

If you haven’t yet discovered Alice Hoffman, you really should. But The Book of Magic probably isn’t the place to start, since it’s the concluding novel in a series of four that begin with the 1995 novel Practical Magic. Practical Magic was made into a 1998 movie – it’s now a bit of a cult classic – starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.

The theme of all four in the series is magic and specifically, female witches. They’re not stereotypical witches, wearing pointy black hats and riding brooms. These are much better. They’re ordinary women with special powers and abilities. Some of the Owens family women, who Hoffman has shared with us through generations, embrace their abilities, others disdain them.

In The Book of Magic, characters from the three previous novels reappear in one way or the other. The sisters played by Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman reappear as older women with careers and nearly grown children. In a sense, they’ve aged in real time, since Kidman and Bullock could play them today in a movie based on this new book. The story culminates in The Book of Magic, which takes readers to Paris, London, rural England and, of course, Massachusetts.

It’s not the witchcraft that has made these novels so popular, it’s Hoffman’s eternal wisdom, which she shares in all of her novels, whether they’re about Ancient Israel, a modern-day car accident or Berlin during the Second World War. My favourite Hoffman book is 2011’s The Red Garden, a series of linked short stories that all relate in some way to a Massachusetts garden that only grows red plants. Sounds banal, but trust me, it’s packed with eternal wisdom and mystery.

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