Book Review: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Rules of Magic 1   Rules of Magic 2

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5 Stars

Publish Date: October 10, 2017

img_0224The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is The Reese Witherspoon Book Club’s October pick. I have been reading RW Book Club’s monthly pick for the past 4 months, and many of her recommendations before that.

Her selections are excellent. There are a lot of mysteries, thrillers, literary and contemporary fiction. That’s right up my alley.

Previous selections include: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, and Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. You’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy the books that Reese recommends.

Also, I have never read anything by Alice Hoffman, and there is a lot of buzz about this book so I decided to give it a try. Plus, it’s Halloween time!  Magic and witches fit perfectly with this time of year.The Rules of Magic 1

This book is about the Owens family, a very special clan of witches with a long lineage dating back to the 1600s in Massachusetts. The story begins in New York City in the early sixties. Susanna Owens has three children – Franny, Jet, and Vincent –  who are slowly becoming aware that they are different. They have special powers that most humans do not possess.

Susanna has strict rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And her #1 rule: no falling in love, because whoever they fall in love with will die.

Susanna has been mostly successful in having her children abide by these rules. But in the summer after Franny turns seventeen, the three siblings visit their Aunt Isabelle in a small Massachusetts town. Franny, Jet, and Vincent relish the freedom of that carefree summer without Susanna’s close supervision and by doing whatever they please. They skirt the edge of breaking Susanna’s rules. They observe their aunt treating her nightly customers and hear their ailments and struggles, and uncover family secrets that explain who they are. That summer sets a path in motion for all three of the Owens siblings as they embrace their heritage as witches, and try to escape the family curse.

The Rules of Magic 2

What I love about this book:

Magic. The author weaves magic into the modern world and brings out magic from flowers, herbs and ordinary items. I love all of the witchy superstitions, the potions, the remedies!! I couldn’t get enough. I wish these worked in real life:

“Star tulip to understand dreams, bee balm for a restful sleep, black mustard seed to repel nightmares…”

“Two eggs, which must ever be eaten, set under a bed to clean a tainted atmosphere.”

“Garlic, salt and rosemary, the ancient spell to cast away evil.”

“The most basic and reliable love potion was made from anise, rosemary, honey, and cloves boiled for nine hours on the back burner of an old stove. It had always cost $9.99 and therefore was called Love Potion Number Nine, which worked best on the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month.”

The people. Franny, Jet, Vincent, Susanna, April, Regine, Isabelle, Levi, Hay. Relatable, likeable, fallible, hopeful characters. You are privy to their inner thoughts and became attached to them.

Love.  The reader experiences the highs, the lows, and the intoxicating feeling of new love, along with the jealousy, hurt, conflicts, sorrow, and heartbreak. You really feel what the character is going through. The love between the siblings is strong. The connection and love for each sibling and their true love is felt throughout the book.

The family story. I love stories about complicated families and their ups and downs. Family dynamics are constantly shifting as time progresses and teenagers become adults. It reminds us that family is always such as important aspect of one’s life, especially at times of crisis and dark moments. At the heart of the story is the strong bond between Franny, Jet, and Vincent. They are there for each other through good times and bad, and support and love each other deeply.

Beautiful writing. There are vivid descriptions filled with magic and imagery. You smell the scents through the pages: hyacinth, wildflowers, curry, herbs, coffee, fresh rain, eucalyptus, peppermint, patchouli, chocolate. The author had so many insightful thoughts and descriptions that resonated with me; this book wins for the most passages that I’ve highlighted.

The food and drink. Food and drink are a central part of the book. Important events are marked with food and drink. Lemonade with rosemary, lemonade verbena,  tomato sandwiches, coq au vin, rhubarb pie, drunken chocolate cake, and the teas: Be True to Me Tea, Fever Tea, Frustration Tea, and Courage Tea.

The settings. The reader travels to New York City, Massachusetts, California, and Paris with many historical references – the Salem Witch Trials, Summer of Love, Vietnam, and NYC areas and landmarks such as Central Park, the Plaza hotel, Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, 77 Greenwich, Monterey, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries, and Place de Vendome to name a few.

The entire book has a good pace; it was engaging and interesting.  This is a book that will resonate with me for a long time. Thank you RW Book Club for the recommendation!

If you have read this book, what did you think of it?

4 thoughts

  1. I absolutely LOVED this book! Alice Hoffman has always managed to make me feel some serious emotions with her writing, and The Rules of Magic was no exception! If you haven’t yet, you should read Practical Magic. The Rules of Magic is a prequel to it, and it has the same kind of vibe. Great review!


  2. Hi Trang! This book is not quite fantasy. It’s based in realism with a sprinkle of magic throughout. I think you will enjoy it. The writing is stellar! Love your blog, by the way!!


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