Practically Magic

The movie Practical Magic released into theaters in 1998. I never saw the film in theaters, but I would be unable to count the number of times I’ve watched it in my, and my mother’s, home. The movie features Sandra Bullock as pragmatic older-sister Sally, and Nicole Kidman as the wild younger-sister Gillian. The sisters came to live with their spooky spinster aunts, played by Stockard Channing and Diane Wiest, after their parents died. There is more to this story than the tragedy of death, though. The Owens women are witches.

This is where the movie and the book (written by Alice Hoffman) begin to differ. Yes, you heard me correctly: there is a book. And let me tell you — It’s practically magic. (sorry, i could not help myself there)

The Book and the movie share an overall arch that doesn’t dramatically change between book and movie. The details, however, change drastically. For example, the movie and book tell the story of a shared ancestor among the four aforementioned women: Maria Owens. In both stories, Maria is a woman who fell in love with a married man. She loved him deeply, and carried his child, but his affection was not returned with the same intensity.

In the movie, Maria Owens is accused of being a witch (this is the time of witch trials, after all). She watches for her lover, hoping he would stop the ceremony and come save her. When he doesn’t her heart breaks. She bursts free from her ropes, in tears, and thus the curse of the Owens women (or shall we say the Owens men) begins. No Owens man after this lived very long. The curse killed any man who entered one of the Owens women’s lives.

In the book, the town does not attempt to burn Maria at the stake, though they do suspect her of witchcraft. There is also no tale of a curse, though most Owens men DO die tragically. This is just one of many small differences between the two stories.

 

I greatly suggest watching the movie first, if you haven’t already. I say this because the movie is witchy-wonderful, and it would be a tragedy to dislike it simply because it isn’t exactly the same as the book. The movie is fun and witchy and magical whereas the book is of more a literary nature, but also witchy and magical. Perhaps the witchy and magical angles are played-up a bit more in the movie, though.

 

If one were to detour from the comparison between book and movie, it would be to say this: Please. Read. This. Book.

The writing is thoughtful and detail-oriented. The relationships between the women are constantly in flux. Though the sisters have gone through much tragedy together, they remain constantly loyal. Though they be loyal, they also argue, pick at one another, and fight in a way only sisters can. As the family grows, so do the relationships. Each character brings a new depth to the story. Each character has new and changing struggles, and one eventual common enemy.

The book may not be “new”, but it is a worthy read. It’s a new favorite of mine. I give the book five stars, and I beg you to read it.

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