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
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.
©2011 A.J. Hartley, David Hewson (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
“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)
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was very well written in a style that differed from traditional modern prose just enough that you knew you were experiencing something very special, but at the same time the story is very clear. When I finished the audiobook I felt like I knew exactly what the audiences of Shakespeare's day probably felt like when they finished viewing the initial performances of this play - they didn't have to deal with the barriers of time and language like we do know - they could just enjoy a powerful and well-told story. Like many others have mentioned, the narration was spectacular and I really loved the witches' characters. Yes, the story is overly dramatic in a few parts - but hey, they don't call it a tragedy for nothing, do they? I encourage you to listen to this book - you will feel like you have accomplished something more substantial that just completing a novel. Frankly, I wish they would do the same treatment on some of Shakespeare's other plays - there are some terrific stories just waiting to be told in this way.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I enjoyed the beginning and the end. The Epilogue was interesting, too. I started listening hoping for "Shakespeare meets history", but I felt it was more the former and less of the latter. To be fair, this is made clear by the Epilogue, but by then my expectation had failed. I liked the grittiness. However, ignoring the apparent golden summer (about 10 years) of Macbeth's reign left me feeling like I'd missed the "good Macbeth" which the authors say they came to like. Apart from one short passage about the good things planned and mapped out on his table, we don't see the best of a character that, for all his obvious vices and faults, had, the authors might argue, noble intentions. In that we miss the chance to reflect of a not-so-modern phenomenon, replayed regularly across the world, particularly, it seems, in Africa. Worth the listen.
audio addict! Mostly interested in history and some historical fiction. Will Durant is my all time favorite. Loving the Great Courses too.
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!
this is an amazing telling of Macbeths story. We may think we know the story from reading Shakespeares version but after listening to this retelling of the story you really can get into the characters, especially the three witches.
The three witches come to life in this telling.
The ending is so compelling-taking you years into Scotland's future.
If the play made little sense to you--the motives are only suggested--this wonderful imagining will delight.
Best thing I've ever heard Alan Cumming do. All of the roles in distinct voices, but with Scots accent.
I pretty much enjoyed the sympathetic portrayal of one of history's most maligned couples--an interesting perspective. I'm glad, however, that I started Hartley and Hewson's Shakespeare retellings with Hamlet: Prince of Denmark, as I don't think I would have been led so eagerly to their other works had I started with this novel. As opposed to the rich collection of troubled-but-relatable characters, the thoughtful dialogues they shared, and the quick pacing of many gripping scenes I read in Hamlet, Macbeth seemed to be full of characters I didn't care about (and who all pretty much seemed to deserve to be killed), and who were stuck in lengthy, kind of boring scenes. Hartley and Hewson make a creative team--I just don't have a lot of innate interest in this play, I guess.
Alan Cumming was a wonderful narrator--it was a treat to hear his true accent and he did a good job differentiating the characters.
Long time LibraryThing member. Love to read a variety of books, usually more than one at a time.
It gripped me from the start, never let go until the final words of the author in the afterword. Alan Cumming is a wonderful narrator for it, his voice set the mood and his accent was easy to listen to, not difficult to understand. For those of you who languish between the novels of G.R.R.Martin, this would be a terrific filler.
Inspired by the play by Shakespeare, and the history of the 1000s in England, Wales and Scotland, Hartley and Hewson have fleshed out the characters, they made me like the Macbeths, not approve of their deeds, but like them. They also described the times, people and places in vivid details. I'm surprised I enjoyed this so much, considering the blood, filth and darkness of it, but I was fascinated and engrossed in the tale. I have always enjoyed the drama of The Scottish Play, but now I have such a wonderful background to put to it.
Oh, the deep, brooding tempest of Macbeth and the twisted consequences of free will.....amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's take on the witches three. They were not the harbingers of doom, merely "innocent " bystanders observing the characters choose their paths and unfortunately their destruction. The narration was incredible. Definitely worth the listen. Enjoy.
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