The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman @ahoffmanwriter @ScribnerUK

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The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman Scribner UK November 2nd 2017

1960’s New York, a time of greater freedom,flower power and protest. Against this backdrop live Franny, Vinnie and Bridget, otherwise known as Jet. Their’s is a seemingly normal childhood, but there is something distinctly different about them, a difference that mother Susanna is keen to hold at bay. Susanna herself hails from a long line of witches where love is a curse. Determined to protect them Susanna bans red shoes, the wearing of black clothing, walking in moonlight and most importantly they must never fall in love for fear of the family curse hurting the one they love.

A visit to their aunt Isabel in a small Massachusetts town where all the wrongs are blamed on the family, changes everything for Franny, Vinnie and Jet. As they slowly realise who they are, each are forced to make decisions to try and escape the family curse, and to learn to live with just who they are.

The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read, and luckily no knowledge is required to be able to enjoy The Rules of Magic.

Now I am not a huge fan of books about witches and magic, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why I have not read Practical Magic, but I am an Alice Hoffman fan.  I am not sure what I was expecting regarding content but I knew the writing would be very good.

I was also pleased that whilst magic has a place in the novel it is not the major theme, indeed it is more about the curse and the characters ability to deal with the small matter of falling in love and hoping that nothing awful befall their loved one.

The characters themselves are rich and diverse. Franny, the eldest, is the most responsible, the most headstrong, with her huge mop of bright red hair, and ability to talk to birds. Vinnie is handsome, rebellious, a charmer, dabbling with the darker side of magic. Jet, the youngest, with an ability to read the minds of others and perhaps the most affected by heritage.

The relationship between them is strong, each trying to protect the other but nothing can protect them when they fall in love. As the 60’s roll on so do the choices the siblings need to make and Hoffman really wrangles with our emotions as tragedy and separation threaten the bond between them.

The characters may be wrestling with their heritage but they still have to deal with real life and Hoffman creates a great sense of time and place. With the Vietnam War raging, their magical abilities does nothing to protect them from the protests and the devastating consequences of the draft. In fact it does nothing to protect them from the full range of human emotion, of the loss and grief we must all at some time face.

Life may not have been as Franny, Vinnie and Jet would have wanted but I think maybe they found some happiness and as the novel nears its end matters turn to the future. The future is sisters Gillian and Sally, whose story is told in Practical Magic, which I will now be reading!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Rules of Magic and am grateful to Netgalley and Scribner for the opportunity to read and review.

About the author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York in March 1952. She attended Adelphi University where she received the Merrellees Fellowship to Stanford University Creative Writing Centre. Hoffman graduated with an MA in Creative Writing in 1974.

Hoffman’s first novel Property Of was when when she was 21. Since then Hoffman has published both adult and children’s fiction.  Her novel Practical Magic was made into a film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.

Hoffman most recent novels are The Marriage of Opposites, The Museum of Extraordinary Things and Faithful.

Reese Witherspoon chose The Rules of Magic as her October 2017 bookclub choice.

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