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Macbeth: A Novel | [A. J. Hartley, David Hewson]

Macbeth: A Novel

Macbeth: A Novel brings the intricacy and grit of the historical thriller to Shakespeare’s tale of political intrigue, treachery, and murder. In this full-length novel written exclusively for audio, authors A. J. Hartley and David Hewson rethink literature’s most infamous married couple, grounding them in a medieval Scotland whose military and political upheavals are as stark and dramatic as the landscape in which they are played.
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Audible Editor Reviews

As British best-selling crime author David Hewson reflects in his introduction to this innovative project, "the Scottish play" is shrouded in mysteries that are not to be taken lightly. Shakespeare condensed and confused 17 years in the history of a beloved king into a play covering a few days rife with political intrigue and shadowy motivations. In The Bard's tragic canon, Macbeth stands as an anomaly for many reasons, including how short it is and how flat all the characters are besides Macbeth himself. With the help of A.J. Hartley, distinguished professor of Shakespeare at UNC-Charlotte and thriller novelist, Macbeth: A Novel is poised to provide a more complete and fleshy picture of this odd little play.

Going where many other actors would fear to tread is, of course, Alan Cumming. Cumming has a long history with daring characters on stage and on the big screen, as well as his fair share of Shakespeare with a previous turn as Hamlet. With an Audie Award already under his belt, he has the chops necessary to imagine and give voice to paranoid kings and conniving witches, but perhaps one of the greatest joys of his work on Macbeth: A Novel is just the fact of his naturally beautiful Scottish accent left unfettered. Nothing sets the landscape so clearly as listening to those long, rolling vowels come up from a part of the belly that only a Scot must have.

Cumming does not shy away from the devious depths of feeling that Hartley and Hewson have so carefully layered onto the play. No more off-stage murder, no more simply scary witches chanting, and quite a bit more sympathy for this story's many devils. Every poisonous cup and every stab wound are rendered in living battle colors. The three witches are not just weird, but positively demonic, each with their own dynamic contribution to the making of a king. Lady Macbeth and Banquo in particular have personalities that loom as large as Macbeth's familiar form.

A strikingly modern interpretation that nevertheless faithfully adapts Shakespeare's original, this audiobook will surely please a wide variety of listeners. Lovers of mysteries or political thrillers, teachers struggling to blow the dust off a classic for their students, and fans of Shakespeare will all find many reasons to enjoy Hartley and Hewson's fresh presentation. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

Macbeth: A Novel brings the intricacy and grit of the historical thriller to Shakespeare’s tale of political intrigue, treachery, and murder. In this full-length novel written exclusively for audio, authors A. J. Hartley and David Hewson rethink literature’s most infamous married couple, grounding them in a medieval Scotland whose military and political upheavals are as stark and dramatic as the landscape on which they are played.

Macbeth is a war hero and a patriot, doing everything in his power to hold together Duncan’s crumbling kingdom, which is beset by sedition from within and with threats from overseas. But when Duncan, contrary to ancient Scottish tradition, turns to building a family dynasty instead of rewarding those who have borne the brunt of the fighting, Macbeth and his powerful wife, Skena, make plans of their own, plans designed to hold both the nation and their strained relationship together. Sinister figures who claim supernatural knowledge spur them on, but the terrible outcome is as much about accident and failure as it is malevolence. Soon Macbeth and his wife find themselves preeminent in all the land, but struggling to hold themselves and their country together as former friends turn into bitter and deadly enemies.

This is Macbeth as you have not heard it before: fresh, edgy, and vital. It is a story of valor in battle, whispering in shadows, witchcraft in the hollows of an ancient landscape, and the desperate struggle of flawed people to do what they think is right.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

A. J. Hartley, a professor of Shakespeare at the Univ. of North Carolina-Charlotte, is the author of the “Will Hawthorne” fantasy series as well as several thrillers.
David Hewson is the best-selling author of 16 novels, including the Rome-based “Nic Costa” crime series.

ABOUT THE NARRATOR

Alan Cumming stars in CBS's The Good Wife, for which he received an Emmy nomination, and is the host of PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery. He was honored with the 2011 Audie Award for Best Male Narrator.

The Irish folk song “She Moved Through the Fair” is performed by Heather O'Neil of the Irish Repertory Theater.

Check out behind-the-scenes videos of the "making of", plus co-author David Hewson's research photos, taken on-location in Scotland, here.
Listen to more titles from A. J. Hartley and David Hewson.

©2011 A.J. Hartley, David Hewson (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Not only is the novel an amplification of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, but it also fills in many of the gaps and gives a new perspective on Macbeth….Alan Cumming reads in a luscious Scottish brogue, which adds authenticity to the narration. His subtle changes of voice for different characters provide a full cast for this story of ambition and hubris. This is a wonderful novel of the human condition, read with ardor and enthusiasm.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1745 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Hal Stewartsville, New Jersey, United States 07-31-12
    Hal Stewartsville, New Jersey, United States 07-31-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    64
    5
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    "Awesome"
    What did you love best about Macbeth: A Novel?

    The story and narration .


    What did you like best about this story?

    Brings a classic story to the masses.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    All scenes with the 3 sisters.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When Lady McBeth met her end.


    Any additional comments?

    I wish there were more modern versions of these classic stories. I recently read Stephem Mitchell's modern version of The ILLIAD that was excellent also. Any suggestions for others?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janyce Oakland, CA, United States 07-21-12
    Janyce Oakland, CA, United States 07-21-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    2
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    "A Great Retelling Of A Classic"
    What made the experience of listening to Macbeth: A Novel the most enjoyable?

    Listening and comparing the story to the Shakespeare version.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The rich detail that gives a much more nuanced understanding of the motivations of the characters. It was wonderful to see everyone painted in shades of complex grays - rather than in stark black and whites.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No. I thought the narration was generally good. Though the attempt as women's voices was a little odd.


    Any additional comments?

    I listened to this almost non-stop during my recent vacation travels. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next - even though I already knew the story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-04-13
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-04-13 Member Since 2010

    Audio-addict!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1633
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    "Wow!! Really good! Excellent!"

    What an amazing book! The authors of this really transformed a Shakespearean play into a fascinating, accessible historical novel. The performance is extraordinary. The authors use lyrical prose that flows naturally, as opposed to a rigid adherence to awkward Shakespearean dialogue.

    It's just a really great historical novel. I listened in one sitting!

    I had read much of Shakespeare's work, but somehow I never read Macbeth. So it's a double treat for me!

    I hope to see more from this writing team!

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, United States 08-21-15
    James COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, United States 08-21-15 Member Since 2010

    Jim Henderson

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great narration of a pretty good story"

    I loved the narration -- I just enjoyed listening to the accent throughout.
    The book was pretty good, but a bit heavy handed in its characters


    *** Spoiler alert ***
    The authors wanted to make Macbeth a more sympathetic character than Shakespeare did and somewhat justify the regicide. However, they went about this with a club. It seemed that the only way they felt they could make Macbeth's actions somewhat justifiable was to make Duncan the embodiment of evil. They portray Duncan, and to a lesser degree Malcolm, as having almost every vice known to man -- greed, lust, laciviousness, cowardice, lack of patriotism, brutality, lack of generosity, lack of loyalty, etc, etc, etc. I understand their motivation, but it was too extremely done. Their depiction of Malcolm was only slightly less severe.

    Their depiction of Duncan has no basis in history, nor Shakespeare, and didn't need to be nearly so "over-the-top."

    Also, the scene near the end where the weird sisters are talking with Skeena, it looks like a misplaced scene from the Joy Luck Club -- a group of women lamenting their woes at the hands of men. It's a strong, but unbelievable, moment of sisterhood.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shelia 08-11-15
    shelia 08-11-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Find something else that's worth your time (and $)"

    Despite what one of the coauthors says in the afterward of the book, they do not reinterpret the text as Shakespeare first did. This was an attempt to fully flesh out centuries old characters with extensive back stories and compelling motivation, but in the end the authors' filled in the blanks of the play's script, despite claims to do the opposite. Want to make it more engaging? Do what Shakespeare did not: extend the story to the length of Macbeth's entire reign! Make the story and the characters layered! Turn it into a true political drama. Make Lady Macbeth more than a hysterical woman grieving for every dead child that she comes across. Show the juxtaposition between the kindness and brutal warrior spirit inside Macbeth. Something! Anything to put meat on this starving husk of one of Shakespeare's bests!

    Honestly, I would rather read academic papers on Lady Macbeth being the anti-mother witch and the delve deeper into the witch mythology. In my opinion, the witches, despite their poor characterizations were the most interesting aspect of the novel. Even then, they're not exactly a saving grace for the book. Their circumstances are interesting but in the end they're like everyone else, easily dismissible. In the end, the same could be said for the novel itself: it is easily dismissible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DB 07-17-15
    DB 07-17-15 Member Since 2015

    just good books

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    "I wanted to like this more"
    Any additional comments?

    This isn't what I thought. It was on sale and seeing that it was Shakespeare I thought I would give it a go. Maybe that was my problem, this isn't Shakespeare. I thought it was average at best and felt a little cheated by not experiencing more of Shakespeare. My fault for not paying more attention to the summary of the book.

    The narrator was OK; not great. It was good to have a Scottish accent tell the story but his characters all sounded basically the same.

    Anyway, not my cup of tea I guess.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Calliope 07-15-15
    Calliope 07-15-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not even close to as good as Hamlet...A Novel"

    I find it hard to believe that the same men behind the great Hamlet novelization audiobook wrote this novelization of Macbeth! This is simply badly written - language and style is heavy handed and overwrought, probably made worse by the strength of the narration's Scottish accent. The story they conceived is good, but the audiobook it became is only fair.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Monica Reichl so cal 07-12-15
    Monica Reichl so cal 07-12-15 Member Since 2014

    mismoniker

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    "imaginative retelling of the classic"

    just a wonderful take on the play that is true to Shakespeare but also manages to expand it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    nilay sameer 07-04-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great retelling of a classic"

    loved it. it is a great re-interpretation of a timeless classic. Shakespeare would be proud.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Careena 07-04-15
    Careena 07-04-15 Member Since 2013

    Doctor Who, James Bond, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Gaskell, but mostly just Doctor Who.

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    "Not nearly as good as Hamlet"

    I picked this piece up because it was by the same authors who wrote Hamlet, which won book of the year 2014. Not because it was any less well done, nor anything to do with Alan Cummings brilliant performance, it just failed to get me really interested. Macbeth is just a much darker, creepier story than Hamlet and I personally couldn't get into it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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