For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, I have chosen to feature my favorite character from Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic! This book was the first in a series of four novels, the second two being prequels and the fourth a direct sequel to the original. Gillian Owens appeared in the first and last of the series. She was also one of the protagonists of the film version of Practical Magic, where she was played by Nicole Kidman.
These books, and the incredible film, form a story that I absolutely adore. Gillian Owens is the younger sister of Sally Owens, and when they were young both of their parents died. This left the girls in the care of their great aunts, who were the sisters of their mother’s estranged father. These two eccentric women proved to be saviors to the girls in this way. However, as the girls grew, so did their magic, and they were ostracized in their hometown for their abilities. In the books, both women would leave their hometown, and aunts behind. In the film, Gillian leaves to get married to her first husband (as she did in the book), but Sally stayed until the aunts used a love spell to make sure she would not continue to be closed off. This spell is what garnered her marriage, and the subsequent birth of her two daughters. When the family curse takes Sally’s husband, in the film she moves back in with the aunts.
In the book, Gillian and Sally were reunited after years apart when Gillian’s boyfriend turns from angry and aggressive to downright abusive, and Gillian showed up on Sally’s doorstep. In the film, they are reunited when Sally comes to Gillian’s rescue, from her abusive boyfriend. They have to deal with the consequences when Sally doses him with too much belladonna, and he actually dies. In both cases, they attempt to resurrect him, for fear of being arrested. This goes very wrong and leads to much of the primary plot, where he begins to haunt Gillian. The climax of the film is when Sally, the aunts, and a group of women from the town (who are on the school phone tree) help empower the spell so that the haunting ends, and Gillian breaks free of Jimmy’s hold on her! It is a beautiful ending, and makes the viewer feel warm and fuzzy about the sisters finally gaining a shred of acceptance!
Now, what makes Gillian a femme fatale? The simple answer is that she one way or another leads to the death of her former flame. She is sexy and flirty and has lived a life full of wanderlust. Gillian has a thing for bad boys, and that has led to the downfall of many of her relationships. At the end of the day, she had always adored her magic and delighted in using it, but she was jealous of Sally. Her sister was a natural, and Gillian could not keep up with her. I have also always seen Gillian as having a more difficult time with being ostracized than Sally, as she was more extroverted while Sally was certainly more introverted (and more able to deal with it internally). In my opinion, that may have been what led to her leaving, well that in conjunction with Gillian’s adventurous spirit! In the book, Gillian finds love with a teacher at her niece’s school. We learn in the final book in the series that the two married, but technically live apart (on different floors of a duplex) in order to circumvent the curse! I really loved to see the expansion of Gillian, and her fulfilling what I always knew she was capable of in the final novel. She is an academic and back in college, and she is trying to become a mother. At the end of the novel, we get to see her finally get her dreams (as do the rest of the Owens women) when the curse is finally truly broken!
Gillian is more than just a wild woman, although I admire her wildness. Gillian Owens is a strong-willed woman, who learns to go after her desires and stop running through the course of her story. She is intelligent and fun-loving, and she can be a great protector of her loved ones! I hope that you have enjoyed this look at this fascinating witchy woman. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Nicole Kidman as Gillian in the film. I found the image on https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/photo-gallery/47829495/image/47829486/Gillian-Green-Velvet-Slip-Dress.
- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
- The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
- Practical Magic (1998)