Fans of Alice Hoffman’s cult classic Practical Magical are in for a special treat as she returns to the enchanting characters of her bestselling 1995 novel.
In her latest, The Rules of Magic, Hoffman evokes 1960s New York City when the elderly, wizened aunts of the original novel, Franny and Jet, are children discovering their special gifts. Along with their brother Vincent, they’re also coming to terms with a 200-year-old curse that means anyone they fall in love with is destined to be destroyed.
It’s not a great time to be living under such a spell – it’s the decade of flower power and free love, societal bonds are loosening and the siblings are pulled by their hearts as they grow up in swinging New York City. By turns the young siblings escape to the Massachusetts, home of their intriguing Aunt Isabelle, with her potions and magic. This is where the curse originated all those years ago and here, the beautiful raven-haired younger sister Jet falls for a descendent of their original enemy – and this can only end in tragedy.
For flamed-haired Franny, it’s her ardent friend Haylin, the boy who pulls against his wealthy, constraining family, whom she falls for. From the day they meet at the Manhattan school they both hate, there’s a bond between them. But Franny does everything in her power to protect Haylin from her fate even it means breaking his heart.
The girls’ brother Vincent, who helplessly attracts women of all ages, leads a dissolute life, drawn to downtown Manhattan, its jazz clubs and all–night drinking holes, until he eventually finds his true self. But, as war approaches, he must face the draft, as well as the family curse.
Hoffman paints a delicious and delirious world where love is the ultimate goal, yet each of the siblings is tragically thwarted. She evokes a seductive magical realm that seems natural in this changing modern world. It’s a world in which objects levitate, people commune with birds, the siblings see into people’s minds, and where herbs and potions can be used to change the course of love.
It’s an evocative portrait of a time too – Kennedy is dead and the Vietnam War is around the corner. During turbulent times the young witches, like other people, will have to decide what’s most important. As the family come to terms with their fates through tragedy and loss, ultimately there’s hope of resolution between the ancient hostilities of the two New England families.
The Rules of Magic has a stunning plot twist and, brimming with all the magical realism and charm of Hoffman’s earlier novels, is sure to delight her fans. For those new to Hoffman’s work, the novel can certainly be enjoyed as a standalone or as a prequel to Practical Magic.
About the Author
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City and is the distinguished author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic (made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston with her ‘adorable and loving’ sheepdog, Shelby.