The first sentence of this fabulous books reads: “Some stories begin at the beginning and others begin at the end, but all the best stories begin in a library”. What’s not to love? This novel is Ms. Hoffman’s final book about magic, specifically witchery, aka the nameless art (previous books: Practical Magic, Rules of Magic, and Magic Lessons). Three generations of Owens women fight to break a 300-year-old curse, but the story is ultimately about love and sacrifice.
This enchanting prequel to Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic takes place in the late 1600s as Maria Owens travels from England to Curacao and then to Salem, Massachusetts, and New York city. Her practice of witchcraft, the “Nameless Art”, follows a complex course from healing to the quest for love and yes, even revenge. Very rich characters with vivid imagery – highly recommended.
Hoffman’s books are very diverse: The Dovekeepers, The Museum Of Extraordinary Things, The Marriage of Opposites and recently, Faithful. Her new book is a prequel to Practical Magic. The central theme is the human cost of magic: a nearly 400 year old curse on the Owen’s family. Accordingly, the current matriarch, Susanna, establishes rules to protect her children. Not surprisingly, her headstrong children test themselves to discover who they are. The context of the book is New York in the 1960s which adds to the air of discovery. The writing is brilliant, describing unforgettable characters and the power of love.
A contemporary story about survivor guilt, and ultimately redemption because of a mother’s unconditional love (and many rescue dogs). Sometimes the story descends dangerously close to soap-opera but this is an enjoyable and worthwhile read. Hoffman’s writings are very diverse and dependable, so I faithfully read all her books.
Hoffman writes meticulous historical dramas. This book tells the story of Rachel, growing up in St. Thomas in the Caribbean in the 1800s. Eventually she becomes the mother of Camille Pissarro who eventually becomes an important impressionist painter. Rachel and Camille are both head-strong and strong-willed which predictably creates conflict. The context of the early Caribbean life and Paris briefly is beautiful, and the story-telling is worthwhile.
One of the best features of this book is the setting: New York and more specifically Coney Island in Brooklyn in 1911. The “museum” is really an exhibit of freaks of nature, both living and dead, most faked/manipulated. The Professor character is wonderfully wicked, but love wins out. Part of the story is a mystery, to add to the flavour.