Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman


Title: Magic Lessons

Author: Alice Hoffman

Published: 7th October 2020, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status Read October 2020 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Do as you will, but harm no one. What you give will be returned to you threefold. Fall in love whenever you can.”

Magic Lessons is the enchanting origin story for the curse that plagues the Owens sisters in Practical Magic from Alice Hoffman.

It begins in 1664 when Hannah Owens, a practitioner of the Nameless Arts, finds an infant wrapped in a blue blanket with her name, Maria, carefully stitched along the border with silk thread abandoned in the snow. Recognising that the child is gifted with bloodline magic, Hannah teaches Maria how to help and heal as women from the surrounding villages find their way to the Owens home deep in the forest. When Maria is ten a finely dressed, red haired witch arrives asking that Hannah break a powerful love spell she had foolishly cast upon herself. The woman is Maria’s mother, Rebecca, who stays barely a night, but invites tragedy in her wake, and alters Maria’s fate.

“Love could ruin your life or set you free; it could happen by chance or be a well-planned decision.”

From England, to Curaçao, to Massachusetts and New York, Maria’s fate twists and turns driven by love, betrayal, fear and vengeance. An unwise romance blesses her with a daughter, Faith, but also places her on the gallows in Salem, and a curse spoken in anger becomes a legacy that will affect the Owens women for generations.

The characters are well-drawn, and believable, marked by joy and tragedy. Maria and her daughter are complex and appealing – bright, headstrong, and courageous, but they each make mistakes.

Hoffman weaves interesting historical detail into her story, including connecting her characters with the Salem witch trials, and one of its most prominent actors. She explores the lack of agency women had over their lives in the period, and the way women like Hannah, Maria and Faith were equally revered, and feared.

The writing is lyrical yet not pretentious, with a mesmerising cadence. Descriptions of people and places are evocative, with spell recipes a charming addition.

It’s not necessary to be familiar with Practical Magic, or The Rules of Magic to enjoy this novel, a spellbinding story, Magic Lessons is a captivating read in its own right.

“These are the lessons to be 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.”

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound I HiveUK

Also by Alice Hoffman reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

 

Title: The World That We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman

Published: October 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read October 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

“It was protection, it was love, it was a secret, it was the beginning, it was the end.”

The World That We Knew is a lyrical, evocative and poignant tale set during World War II from Alice Hoffman.

“I beg you for one thing. Love her as if she were your own.”

As the Nazi’s purge Germany of its Jewish population, a mother desperately seeks a way to save her twelve year old daughter, Lea. Turning to her faith for a miracle she finds help from a Rabbi’s daughter, Ettiene, who, in exchange for train tickets to make her own escape with her sister, creates a Golem, a creature made from magic and clay, compelled to deliver Lea safe from the war.

“Hers was a wish that could never be granted. It was too late, it was over; there was no home to go back to.”

While Lea grieves for all she has left behind, Ava, learning to walk within the world, ensures they safely reach Paris. There they find refuge with the Levi family, distant cousins, and Lea a friendship with Julien Levi that eases her heartache, but once again the darkness closes in, and Ava and Lea must flee.

“It was a dark dream,… it was nothing like the world we knew.”

A story of family, love, grief, faith, sacrifice, survival, duty, good and evil, The World That We Knew is a spellbinding fairytale, grounded in the horrific reality of the Holocaust. It contrasts the very worst of humanity with its best during one of history’s darkest periods, and celebrates the astonishing ability of love to thrive even in the bleakest of circumstances.

“People said love was the antidote to hate, that it could mend what was most broken, and give hope in the most hopeless of times.”

Lea and Ava’s path is fraught with danger, yet illuminated with love, as it also is for those with whom they connect on their journey. Ettie seeks out the resistance after her sister is gunned down during their escape from Berlin; Marianne returns home to her father’s farm in the Ardèche Mountains, and discovers all that she left to find; Julien Levi narrowly escapes being shipped off to Auschwitz during ‘Operation Spring Breeze’, doing all he can to keep his one promise to Lea – to stay alive.

“If you survive, I survive inside of you.”

Powerful and poetic, The World That We Knew is a stunning novel and a compelling read.

“Once upon a time something happened that you never could have imagined, a spell was broken, a girl was saved, a rose grew out of a tooth buried deep in the ground, love was everywhere, and people who had been taken away continued to walk with you, in dreams and in the waking world.”

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository