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Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic Kindle Edition
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"Storytelling is in Hoffman’s bones, and the skill with which she dispenses information and compresses time, so that a year passes in a sentence, so that a tragedy witnessed becomes the propeller for a hundred-page subplot, is (forgive me) bewitching. My current reality feels chaotic and confusing; to have a narrator take my hand and tell me that linden root and yarrow will cure a racing heart, that witches turn silver dull with their touch, is an undiluted pleasure... Hoffman’s book swept me away during a time I most needed it." —New York Times Book Review
"Hoffman writes deftly, and often beautifully, about nature, and she can plot like, well, a witch, casting a spell on her reader to flip pages, reading ahead for plot twists... Magic Lessons is a compelling reminder of the past, which as it turns out, is not distant enough from the present.” —Boston Globe
"A gorgeous new novel you won't want to miss" — Bustle
"Vivid and enchanting, with a can’t-miss-it foray into the Salem Witch Trials, Magic Lessons is another sublime entry in an arresting series." — Esquire
“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
"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
"Calling all Alice Hoffman stans. Along the way, [Magic Lessons] shows us how smart, independent women were treated in the 17th century. Don't miss it." —theSkimm
"Full of wonderfully strong women, fascinating history and a plot that doesn't stop spinning, this book is a treat." —AARP Magazine
"Mysterious, magical and with important lessons about love and life, I cannot wait for it!” —Parade
"Heartbreaking and heart-healing…intense and gorgeous…This is an impressive tale, equal parts love story, history, and horror….The whole thing is absolutely riveting and riveting from start to finish.” — BookPage
"A very emotional, mystical, engaging read. The characters in this novel are brilliantly drawn with Hoffman’s skillful writing... It is a magical read." — The Free Lance–Star
About the Author
- ASIN : B084G9VWRW
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster (October 6, 2020)
- Publication date : October 6, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 5009 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 412 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1471197190
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #15,014 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I haven’t read Practical Magic or The Rules of Magic, so I had to base my judgment on the merits of this novel alone. Magic Lessons is mostly a narrative, well written, as expected from an author at the peak of her writing prowess, though a bit repetitive in parts. I expected the novel to be rather predictable, as Maria Owens ended up in Salem, Massachusetts, so it was inevitable to associate the plot with Salem’s witch trials, and there was a lot of that, but luckily enough Alice Hoffman avoided that pitfall by plunging the story in interesting new directions that gave it depth and plausibility.
Interestingly, I have become keen on reading Practical Magic and its prequel, so I’ll be reading more about the Owens family in the future.
Disclaimer: I received from the publisher a free e-book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
By Bonnie Ford on October 12, 2020
Magic Lessons gives us Maria Owens' complicated story, beginning with her life as a foundling in Essex, England, where she is taken in and raised by Hannah Owens, a practitioner. When Hannah foresees and suffers her own horrible fate, Maria leaves England and searches for safety, having been sold by her stepfather (for she eventually meets her mother) for indentured service to a captain on a vessel sailing to the Dutch colony of Curaçao. There she must work for five years for a Dutch family to earn her freedom. She does and just as she is going to be free she meets their guest, a tradesman by the name of John Hathorne. After a few fateful days, Maria is left heartbroken, pregnant, and bound toward the Salem colony of Massachusetts, to catch up with the man she is sure she loves. Only does he? And does he love her? With so much of the magic of the Nameless Art centered on love (and its heartaches), Maria has failed to listen to Hannah Owens cardinal rule- Always love someone who will love you back. She will pay a heavy price for this mistake, as will her daughter Faith, and the young Jewish man who saves Maria's and Faith's lives, just as Maria has saved his. But given Maria's uttered curse, perhaps Samuel Dias' price is just the price of happiness.
Magic Lessons is both a novel of historical fiction, looking at the era of the Salem Witch Trials, and a beautiful novel of fantasy, giving us the Owens family history. The elements of the Marrano history of the Sephardim in Portugal were a wonderful touch to the story, as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I am, however, now hungry for the story of Hannah Owens, and for that of the enchanting Catherine Durant, another practitioner. You will never satisfy us, Alice!
After reading, I promptly listened to Sutton Foster's beautiful narration of the novel to enjoy the story all over again. Lessons learned? "Drink chamomile tea to calm the spirit. Feed a cold and starve a fever. Read as many books as you can. Always choose courage. Never watch another woman burn. Know that love is the only answer."
I received a paper and digital review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The only problem I had was when I counted it as part of the Owens' family lore. As a standalone the book is great, but as a prequel to "Practical Magic" and "Rules of Magic" it feels a little forced. Some things mentioned in the other books about Maria Owens have been retconned to expand the story and increase the novel length.
To sum up: Enjoy it for what it is, but don't expect it to seamlessly mesh with its predecessors.
Top reviews from other countries
Maria is found as a baby by wise woman Hannah Owens, who brings her up with the old ways. Maria learns how to grow a healing garden, to use herbs for ailments of body and mind, and help women with problems caused by love. However, Maria’s power isn’t just learned. She has the mark of a blood witch from her birth mother, and has been chosen by her familiar Cadin who is a crow. Maria feels she must be the result of a woman being fooled by love and vows not to be taken in by a man. Tragically, Hannah is burned as a witch and Maria knows she must run to save her life. She meets her mother and birth father, and realising there is no room in their love for a third person she takes a gift of red boots and sails to the island of Curacao where she has been sold into servitude for a period of five years. Here, her vow against love will be tested. Taking us through the dangerous years of the 17th Century, where Puritanical communities like Salem in Massachusetts were whipped to hysteria, and would not suffer a witch to live. Hoffman’s prequel to Practical Magic takes us back to the beginnings of the Owens family and the complicated relationship between their power and the very human need to be loved.
I had been waiting for this prequel for a long time and I wasn’t disappointed. It only took me moments to be in Hoffman’s magical world thanks to the layers of description she uses to create an unusual atmosphere. In some senses she creates an instantly recognisable sense of place. Her descriptions of Massachusetts, and later, Brooklyn are full of local floral and fauna, the sense of wilderness and pioneering spirit within these early settlers of the Americas. It is dark, foggy, wet and often icily cold with dangerous animals and even more dangerous people. By contrast the time spent travelling to the West Indies and the beautiful island of Curacao are vivid. In the daytime full of colour, exotic flowers and birds and I could feel the sun on my face, the warm sand beneath my feet and the incredible animals such as the turtles and tiny hummingbirds. By night, when Maria and her friend explore the island, it is still warm, with a vast sky full of stars. On the other hand there are times when these places seem otherworldly as we see them through the eyes of a witch: the magical properties of plants, the incredible loyalty of an wild animal like Keeper the wolf, and the witches’ power to control these elements to their advantage. It’s our world but not quite. The difference is viewing it through the lens of history, but most unimportantly, by magic.
There were times I didn’t fully understand Maria, although she’s the more sympathetic character of the three generations. She protects herself against love after seeing what it did to her mother, but then later says she couldn’t protect herself against love. I think this is almost a push and pull between the human and more magical signs of her character. She tries to use her power to prevent love, but perhaps her heart truly longs for it. The tragedy is in protecting herself against the right man, while letting the wrong one in. I find her choice to go to Massachusetts with her daughter Faith inexplicable given that she has friends and support in Curacao. John Hathorne is a very dangerous man, to women in general and not just the witches he persecutes. He drags young girls into a battle he is constantly fighting between his appetites and his conscience. There is part of him that emerged in Curacao that wants to shed his responsibilities, to throw off inhibition and dive into the sea as well as give in to his passions for a woman he desires. In Massachusetts he is a pillar of the Puritan community, yet he marries his wife Ruth when she is just 14 and his ward. She describes crying as he takes her to the marital bed, but her fear and young age does not stop him. It’s worth mentioning that in a historical context this isn’t unusual, but to me it shows a lack of compassion and respect for women. He turns his back on his daughter, both when she’s a baby and when she returns as a young woman. Maria, his wife Ruth and his daughter Faith are all his victims. Samuel, or Gogo as Faith calls him, is a good man and I was desperate for him to win Maria over. He is not scared of Maria or her power. He loves her intelligence, her fortitude and her power. I could have cried for how much time is wasted as Maria fights him.
I enjoyed the way Hoffman weaves in the historical context for America in this period. These are early settlements, some first colonised by the Dutch then by the English. She doesn’t forget the indigenous tribes either, often completely massacred by these ‘Christian communities’ who hold themselves in such high regard. They hold women with healing knowledge in the same regard as these natives of USA, as if they are cleansing their area of magical and primitive beliefs. Hoffman doesn’t forget her Jewish heritage either, situating them as a persecuted race often moved on from areas they’ve settled and treated with suspicion. We see this in the characters of Samuel and his father, who have chosen a life on the sea instead, but still hold their heritage close to their hearts. There’s a sense in which Christianity is anti-magic whereas Judaism is closer to ancient magic and respectful of its power, especially in its capacity to do good. The only time Samuel stops Maria from practicing her magic is when it’s in a darker form, as she tries everything to keep his father alive. The Christian beliefs practised by the Dutch and English settlers has become corrupted and Hoffman presents their acts as the very evil they fear. When Maria is taken for the trial by drowning in Massachusetts, there is a frenzy and mob like mentality that is seen later in real life witch trials of Salem and the fictional arrest and trial endured by Faith. When Faith is taken by a Christian woman, confined and forced to live as her daughter we again see obsession and evil. Her captor never seems to doubt she is doing God’s work removing Faith from her mother, taking her far away and putting her in irons to remove her power. Yet this evil, begets more evil as Faith escapes and uses her freedom to practice blood magic steeped in anger and revenge. Yet she still has a conscience. Faith is haunted by the death of her captor, despite helping women to wreak revenge and enchantment by night.
I would have liked to see a more time between John Hathorne’s wife Ruth and Maria, because they were both exploited by the same man. I also think that there was perhaps too much complex detail in the women’s appearances such as Faith’s changing hair colour or the different colours of thread used for different purposes. I found myself becoming confused at times, but it’s a small issue in a magical story. I think this was a thoughtful and atmospheric origins story of a family many fans have come to love. I think the strength of this series is in that combination of the mystical and the very human elements of the story. Despite their powers Maria, her mother Rebecca and her daughter Faith experience the highs and lows of every woman’s life - the changes of adolescence, falling in love with the wrong man and the right one, motherhood, illness and ageing. I felt emotional as Maria saw her ‘mother figure’ Hannah murdered by men who feared her, as she realised the man she loved didn’t really exist, and as she lost Cadin her loyal companion. These women’s fight to be accepted and even acknowledged for their skills is a fight that continues today as we fight for women’s rights to equal pay, to save reproductive rights and to be seen as more than sexual objects. Their fight to stay alive is still echoed in our fight to stop child brides, exploitation of young girls and domestic abuse. It was a series coming full circle, as we see the formation of that mistrust of love that shapes Jet’s journey or that sees Gillian constantly pick the wrong man. I truly loved my time back with the Owens women again.
Alix Harow’s new novel picks up from Hoffman’s link between the fate of women labelled witches and the women’s rights movement.
All in a brilliantly written book which is hard to set down! Beautifully descriptive with a strong live narrative in all its forms. Fabulous
It came quickly after I'd pre-ordered it and in good condition.
I can recommend both the item and seller. Thank you. 😊
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2020