Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
This Audible offering takes the familiar story and turns it into a fully realized epic, placed in historical and political context. The writing is outstanding, so that I could envision the very landscape and scenery throughout all of the story locations. It is both an action story and a political and psychological thriller. The characters are fleshed out with complexity that prevents black and white "good guys vs bad guys" caracature. By filling in details of the political and cultural scene of 11th century Scotland, the authors allow us to have a better understanding of the motivations of all the characters, particularly why Macbeth decides to kill the king in the first place - going beyond the motivation of raw ambition. Lady Macbeth is much more complex than the ambitious behind-the-scenes manipulator that we are used to - and much more sympathetic. The presentation of the 3 witches is particularly facinating - no "double, double toil and trouble" - but very specific descriptions of their different personalities and their role in setting the action in motion.
A word about the reading by Alan Cumming - Superb! As a Scot, his voice lends welcome authenticity to the narration. He is a master at providing distinctive voices to all of the characters, and I was especially impressed with his ability to provide credible voices to the female characters - typically a difficult task for male readers.
I listened to the entire book in one day - unable to put it down. This is a wonderful piece of drama that should not be missed. I will look for more original titles from Audible if this is the standard of excellence that can be expected.
This was a wonderfully creative interweaving of mythology, fantasy, immigrant history, and cultural understanding with some danger and romance thrown in. The relationship between Jinni and Golem is complex because they are so different in their natures (hot and cold, impulsive and reserved, selfish and serving) and yet also alike in their bafflement of the human race and the stress of needing to suppress their true natures. Their divergent viewpoints lead to very insightful debates on matters of ethics, morals, religion and free will, challenging each other’s actions and motivations. They embodied both the best and the worst of the humans they were trying to figure out and this adds depth to what is essentially a stranger-in-a-strange-land tale. As is true with the best of mythology or folk tales, there is a lot to be learned by humans from the dilemmas threatening the Jinni and the Golem. Their struggles make you think about just what does it mean to be human.
While the tone is often dark and dangerous, there is also plenty of humor found in the recognition of small moments of everyday living, lending the supernatural a reassuringly grounded feeling. The supporting characters, good, bad or in between, are all wonderfully written. There wasn't one I felt was a misstep. Helene Wecker’s writing is straightforward and assured, George Guidall’s reading is perfection. I loved every minute of this book.
"Complex" is an adjective found in most reviews of this retelling of Shakespeare's classic. So I'm not unique in finding new depth to the characters - Ophelia, Hamlet himself, and (for me) especially Claudius. Is Hamlet mad or acting? Is Claudius evil or caught in the one act he committed (perhaps) through the evil manipulations of another? By adding back stories to the major and secondary characters, the story moves beyond the dramatic (and melodramatic) familiarity of Shakespeare's speeches into a tragedy of real people's lives. The reading is near perfection, providing personality to the characters without intruding upon the action. I am inspired now to return to the original source, reading the poetry again with the characters newly revealed.
To Hartley and Hewson - Is Lear next?