Picks and Pans Review: Looking Back at Love Gone Wrong

updated 04/21/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/21/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Alice Hoffman | [

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Headstrong women, reckless love affairs and a liberal dusting of the supernatural are the pleasurable trademarks of an Alice Hoffman novel (Practical Magic, Here on Earth), and this melancholy fable of love and loss is no exception. A haunted London hotel provides the backdrop for three stories, beginning in 1999, when Maddy, a Manhattan lawyer, sleeps with her sister's "ridiculously handsome" English fiancé, then discovers he is terminally ill. We are next transported to the London of the '60s, where doctor's daughter Frieda upends her life by falling for a drug-addled rocker. Finally we meet Maddy's mother, Lucy, who, as a girl visiting London with her parents in the '50s, becomes an unwitting accessory in a tragic love triangle—the origin of the inn's haunting. Hoffman tends to slip into facile language, but her passionate storytelling and intense characters make a deeply personal connection that should bewitch old fans and new readers alike.

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