The Rules of Magic - Alice Hoffman

"The only light in town turned on after midnight was on the back porch of the Owens house. It had been lit for hundreds of years, first by oil, then by gas, now by electricity. Moths fluttered through the ivy. This was the hour when women came to visit, looking for cures for hives or heartbreak or fever."

When you return to an author you love, it is like a lover from your past; you have fond memories and welcome the reunion but you are usually unprepared for the power of the reconnection; for how quickly you fall all over again.

Reading The Rules of Magic was a double whammy; not only was it Alice Hoffman whose work I adore, but it is a return to the world of the Owens family and the curse which befalls any who would fall in love with them. We were introduced to the Owens in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic is a prequel, taking us back in time to see the lives which shaped the irascible aunts Franny and Jet. Along with The Ice Queen, Practical Magic is my favourite work by Hoffman and I was excited and nervous about returning to the world; would it be as good? Would it weaken the earlier story?

I don't know how I ever doubted Alice Hoffman for a second.

The Rules of Magic is spectacular. Hoffman eases you back into the world of the Owens so smoothly it feels like you've never been away. The story has everything that you would expect from a prequel and still surprises; the 1950's and 60's setting is rich with culture and change, both of which soften when we return to small town Massachusetts. And rare to the Owens bloodline, there is Vincent, beautiful, enchanting and chaotic, younger brother to Franny and Jet and surest to find trouble of the three. The love and magic that the siblings at turns deny and embrace, and the way the curse shapes their lives are the central themes here and although that makes the book sound simplistic, do not be fooled as The Rules of Magic will keep you delightfully on your toes.

The prose and language are as atmospheric and glorious as you expect from this brilliant storyteller; a deep pile romp through the senses with such a delicate touch it leaves you wondering how Hoffman does it.

Ultimately, this is one of those books which will move you to tears unless your heart is made of stone. You will weep for the triumphs and despairs of the characters and you will cry at having to leave this world behind at the end.

A bloody good reason to go straight on to reading Practical Magic if you ask me... oh look at the time, best be off, I have an appointment with Magnolia Street. The back porch light should be on by now.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is out 2nd November 2017 in hardback from all good and probably some terrible bookshops.


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