Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman.
I’ve had this book for ages but, for some reason, I hadn’t read it. Practical Magic (Griffin Dunne, 1998) is one of my favourite films, so I was a little worried that reading the book would make me feel disappointed by the film. fortunately, that didn’t happen. I loved the book, and I still love the film. For me, I found that there were enough differences that you could see the film was based on the book, but only loosely followed it. The film was written incredibly well, in my humble opinion, so that it complimented the book.
As with the film, it follows the story of sisters Sally and Gillian after their parents die and their move to the aunts on Magnolia street. In the film it follows this idea of being cursed by their ancestor, Maria, and how death follows any who “dare love an Owens girl”. The book differs from this track. It brings up love and feeling cursed, but it’s more centred around what the sisters believe they deserve. Their abandonment issues make them believe that they are not worthy of being loved, or they’re scared to love in case they lose something they care so much about.
They grow up as polar opposites, but are brought together by the death of Gillian’s boyfriend Jimmy. This finally brings Gillian back to the family. Sally left the aunts’ when her two girls (also polar opposites) were babies after fearing they’d be targets like her and Gillian were. As with the film, it follows their journey and how they learn to accept each other’s differences, and to love themselves for who they are.
Both the book and the film are beautifully narrated with vivid concepts, relatable emotions, and ‘real’ family frictions. I’m actually disappointed that Officer Gary Hallet wasn’t how he was portrayed in the film though – I really loved Aidan in this. Gary in the book seemed such a dull character by comparison (which he really isn’t, he just felt different). I’m also sad that Gillian didn’t look like the red-haired Nicole Kidman. The symmetry between Sally and Gillian with Sally’s girls, Antonia and Kylie, was much more subtle than film. In the book, it’s more about attitudes and how personalities can grow, change, converge… dependent upon influences, circumstances and age.
You actually see Sally’s children play a much bigger role in showing this development when it comes to the book.
Despite my love of the film, I still would definitely recommend reading the book as it’s like reading two books based on the same topic – you can see the similarities but, once you accept they’re not the same, you can love both equally.