Friday, 2 October 2020

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman - Book Review

Amanda Kennedy

 


Magic Lessons is a prequel to her other books chronicling the Owen's witches in the vein of an origin story. 

Having previously read and loved Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, I was keen to learn more and was not disappointed. 

Hoffman's style of writing reads to me like a warm hug. That's not to say there is no peril in these novels, there certainly is, but these stories make me feel as though they are being read to me by someone friendly and familiar, in front of a warm fire on an autumn evening. 

Familiarity with the history of witchcraft in both Europe and America is certainly present in Magic Lessons, as we follow Maria Owens, adopted by Hannah to the family name, seek out her fate across two Essex counties separated by oceans. Maria is a bloodline witch, therefore her powers are innate and strong. We learn of her familiar, a beautiful black crow; the heartbreak which sets her on her path of tragedy and destruction towards that fateful curse which prevents her descendants from ever experiencing true love.

Interspersed with the story are the titular "magic lessons": recipes and instructions for spells, relevant to the passage of text they proceed. I rather liked these sections, which remind us that in times past women were tried as witches simply for using herbs and simple tinctures to cure ailments (whereas men were praised as doctors and healers for doing exactly the same). Feminism is also a theme through this story, warning us that women were not always equal to men. 

Although readers may already be familiar with the women of Owens lineage, I don't wish to spoil the story by saying too much in this review. It is a calm and tender read, full of love, heartbreak, revenge and loss, but whose final lines provide us with a mantra to help us live life well. 

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman will be published on October 6th, 2020.

Reviewed by Amanda Kennedy on October 1st, 2020. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Amanda Kennedy / Book Blogger, Writer & Editor

Amanda is a lifelong learner and book lover who lives in the North of England with her family and several cats. She writes book reviews, literary news and bookish articles here on All My Pretty Books.

To learn more about Amanda's own work, visit her personal website.

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