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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 (1398 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Nita 08-25-13
    Nita 08-25-13
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    "Better than Shakespeare's original"

    The personalities, motivations and passions behind school-learned names come alive in the best possible way in this book. I was enthralled by the authors' expansion of the tale into this narrative creation.

    And Alan Cummins' performance was the best twist of all. His Scottish authenticity kept the characters ringing in my ears long past the end of the book.

    Recommended for anyone who likes Game of Thrones, Shakespeare, or a story in which good people make bad choices.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leissa Converse, TX, United States 08-11-13
    Leissa Converse, TX, United States 08-11-13 Member Since 2005

    I LOVE audiobooks. Audible is the only way I read my favorite books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Actors Don't Always Make Very Good Narrators"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Not the audiobook. The novel itself is very interesting. I've always wanted to see Macbeth as a novel vs. a play. However, as wonderful a character actor as Jim Cummings is, he is not that great of a narrator. His Scottish accent is so thick it is hard to understand and he doesn't distinguish the characters by doing the different voices very well (the big reason I almost exclusively read audiobooks these days).


    What other book might you compare Macbeth: A Novel to and why?

    Braveheart. Pillars of the Earth. I don't usually read novels like this, but it compares to any of the other good, medieval historical fiction I have read.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The voices and less of an accent.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it's very long and hard to listen to. The narrator's strong accent makes it difficult to do anything else while listening because you have to concentrate on his words so much in order to understand what he's saying.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jan 08-03-13
    Jan 08-03-13

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "I expected a Shakespeare companion"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Same old... I found it borning to be honest, and I am rarely bored by my choices.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment. Waste of money. Persevered for a couple of hours and gave up.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jimheh New Berlin, WI USA 07-11-13
    jimheh New Berlin, WI USA 07-11-13 Member Since 2002

    jimheh

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Adaptation"

    This is the best version of the great tale I've ever came across. The narration is superb.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Egger Ontario, CA United States 06-23-13
    Richard Egger Ontario, CA United States 06-23-13 Member Since 2012
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    2
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    "Best Audible Experience So Far"
    Where does Macbeth: A Novel rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is my best audible experience so far. I have found that I get bored about half way through most of the books I have tried. This one, however, kept me coming back for more. It also helps that it was not terribly long.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    MacBeth was a great character. Listening to his emotional struggles and his attempts to hold on to what made him such a good man in the first place, drives the story. I have never read the play, so I did not know the story.


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narrator had an accent that helped with atmosphere. If I had read the book, I would not have heard Scotland in my mind's ear.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan San Diego, CA, United States 03-01-13
    Alan San Diego, CA, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Pleasant surprise!"

    I felt like I was taking a big risk with this book. I’ve never liked Shakespeare plays on TV and didn’t like reading them in high school. After reading the reviews and listening to the preview, I decided to risk a credit. Glad I did! This book features an excellent narration and a great, well written story. No boring moments, lots of detailed action and a bit of interesting history. This book is a rare gem!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith A. Weller LaVale, MD United States 03-22-12
    Judith A. Weller LaVale, MD United States 03-22-12 Member Since 2008

    jw1917

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Alan Cummings is what makes this book"

    This is a hard book to review. In one sense it is very compelling and certainly the narration by Alan Cummings make the story more vivid than another narrator would.

    The background premise of turning Shakespeare's play into a novel is somewhat less successful. I think the role in the story played by the 3 witches is overdone and they are far too prominent in the story. I guess somehow I prefer Shakespeare's play or Verdi's Opera to this novel.

    The first part of the books is much better than the end -- after the murder of King Duncan I think the books goes downhill very rapidly and degernates into just mindless descriptions of slaughter interspersed with the witches. The books really takes too many liberties of Shakespeare and with history to be a satisfying book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ralph spokane, WA, United States 01-26-12
    Ralph spokane, WA, United States 01-26-12 Member Since 2011

    Audible Addict. Hopelessly addicted to Audible and find myself listening to books at every chance. The Audible sales feed my addiction!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Alan Cumming makes the story"
    What did you like best about this story?

    Alan Cumming narrating in his native speaking voice makes this worth the listen. The story is not that different from the Shakespeare version but its a fun listen.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not a very long novel so did not take me long to listen to.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LORRAINE PLAINWELL, MI, United States 12-08-11
    LORRAINE PLAINWELL, MI, United States 12-08-11 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Was I surprised!"
    Would you listen to Macbeth: A Novel again? Why?

    Yes, it was more than I expected and I know I missed some activity. I already have relistened to different segments and had missed crucial items in the first listening.
    I had to read Macbeth in English Lit & just didn't get the poetry and the rhythm. this was much more enjoyable!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Macbeth: A Novel?

    when the young orphan died drinking the wine Lady Macbeth made for the guards, and when Macbeth tries to justify their actions for the murder and of course


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

    No, but I'll be looking for more! I love when the narrator takes on the accent & culture of the main character, it adds so much to the reading & meaning of the book!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine Mason, OH, United States 11-17-11
    Katherine Mason, OH, United States 11-17-11 Member Since 2010

    I love to read mysteries, histories, biographies, humor, and Jane Austen.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Riveting"

    I couldn't stop listening to this audiobook, even as the night hours passed. A fascinating and illuminating take on the famous play, fleshing out the characters and explaining their motives. Alan Cumming is fantastic. Strongly recommended to anyone who loves the play, or anyone who loves a thrilling story.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 111-120 of 147 results PREVIOUS111121315NEXT
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  • tontowilliams
    Hampshire, UK
    7/27/11
    Overall
    "Think you know Macbeth - think again!"

    This retelling of the tale by David Hewson and A J Hartley is just simply amazing. Bringing a new depth to the story, this is no repeating the original Shakespeare but an inspired reworking, incredibly bought to life by the vocal talents of Alan Cumming.

    Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, King Duncan and The Witches are all brought vividly to life.

    The writing is amazing and the narration is one of the best that I have heard on audible.

    If you think Shakespeare is too stuffy or full of flowery words then this interpretation will give you a new appreciation of classic literature bought up to date by modern audiobooks.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    4/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Shakespeare interpreted the story so much better"

    I had thought this book would be an historical novel closer to the real story of Macbeth rather than a re-working of Shakespeare’s play. However, it turned out to be a fleshing out of the play with some variations from Shakespeare’s imaginative changes from his source material Hollingshead’s History of Scotland. The present authors change some of the most gripping scenes in the play and alter the portrayal of characters such as King Duncan from a saintly monarch to a lecher who preys on young girls and Banquo from a fine man into a father who sneers unreasonably at his son, Fleance. I think their changes diminished the balance of the story so ably constructed by Shakespeare.

    Some of the historical detail is interesting but at other times the narrative is like a romantic novel with some raunchy sex scenes shoe-horned in. I kept feeling that the central story was being submerged by verbiage. Rather than illuminating the story with extra details the authors have deadened it by their excessively descriptive prose laden with adjectives and similes: the kind of adolescent writing ones hopes to leave behind with experience. Even at crucial points in the story such as Duncan’s murder; Lady Macbeth’s suicide and Macbeth’s death there are endless diversions of detail and excess verbiage that ruin the momentum of the scene. A few phrases are lifted from Shakespeare’s play and these shine as examples of great writing.

    This audio book finishes with a postscript from the authors explaining what they had done and, while I accept that a novel is different from a play, I think their version lacks the pace, subtle human psychology and character development of the play. The saying "less is more" comes to mind.

    I was glad when the book ended as I was repeatedly infuriated by the florid prose.

    The talented Scottish actor Alan Cummings does a grand job of bringing the characters to life and inject excitement into the battle scenes.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Jayne
    cassop, United Kingdom
    9/6/12
    Overall
    "Fabulous"

    What a brilliant interpretation , of the classic Macbeth, the narrator was excellent he made the story come alive, I'm so glad I bought this as I shall listen to it again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    7/25/12
    Overall
    "A good idea"

    The idea behind this book is excellent. The historical insights are interesting and some of the imagery really vivid. Nevertheless the book suffers from a major problem and that is that we all know what is going to happen in the end. Furthermore I was struck by how desperately upsetting the story is. If you see the play in a theatre, you can go out and chat to your friends or whatever and take a deep breath and look about you. Here the authors tell a tale of unremitting horror and bloodthirsty-ness and there are moments when it all gets a bit much! However, the story is told from a very thought-provoking, and I would argue, contemporary perspective. This is no replacement for seeing the play, but an intriguing discussion of the historical person of Macbeth. I particularly liked the way the authors weave in passages from the play – these passages work very well within the story and remind the listener/reader of the authors’ starting point.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph
    Rochdale, UK
    9/26/11
    Overall
    "Absolutely excellent"

    I never did Shakespeare at school and even now I follow the Bertie Wooster philosophy of "...sounds well but doesn't mean anything." (Call me a Philistine if you wish).

    This book however is an exciting adventure story set in the 11th Century and whether you know Shakespeare or not it is page turning stuff (or the audio equivalent).

    I highly recommend this for just what it is.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    6/20/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Toil and trouble ..."

    A brutal and marvellous re-telling of the classic dark tale of betrayal and destiny. Loved it!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Russ
    Scarborough, United Kingdom
    7/9/12
    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    I have to admit to being very dubious about this book, but decided to take the plunge and try it because I absolutely adore the play (despite studying it at school!)

    The positives are that the Shakespearean story remains intact and very well interpreted, it is set conventionally in 11th century Scotland, and I have to say that Alan Cumming is absolutely brilliant as a reader. The plot is the same as the play and belts along just like the play. The authors have really fleshed out the characters with more back story and more characterisation.

    There is only one negative and this is that I was expecting more of the historical King Macbeth who died in 1057. Now this may just be me and my reading of the blurb above but I was expecting more of the historical facts rather than the novel just sticking to Shakespeare's version of events.

    That said, it is a great book and well worth a listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • ROBERT
    CHELMSFORD, United Kingdom
    1/16/12
    Overall
    "Macbeth"

    Not sure what I expected from this book and I am new to this tye of literature. Overall I enjoyed it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • B
    Cheadle, United Kingdom
    4/17/13
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    A very original,enthralling slant on the old story.Beautifully narrated in Scottish accents which makes it feel so authentic

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Angus
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Very Good"

    It's impossible to review this book without referring to Shakespeare, but to make a straight comparison doesn't really do it justice. The book stands on it's own right and is quite gripping. The description of the time and location really brings the world to life and the characters feel quite real. Alan Cumming is an excellent reader and he uses a voice that feels as if its from the period itself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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