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Macbeth: A Novel Audiobook

Macbeth: A Novel

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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

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  •  
    Janyce Oakland, CA, United States 07-21-12
    Janyce Oakland, CA, United States 07-21-12 Member Since 2013
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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
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    John M Lafayette, CA USA 10-06-11
    John M Lafayette, CA USA 10-06-11 Member Since 2007
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    "You don't need to love Shakespeare to love this..."

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 08-01-11
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 08-01-11 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "Bill 2, History 1"

    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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-04-13
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-04-13 Member Since 2010

    audio addict! Mostly interested in history and some historical fiction. Will Durant is my all time favorite. Loving the Great Courses too.

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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
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    Veronica Bensalem, PA, United States 12-12-11
    Veronica Bensalem, PA, United States 12-12-11

    VTN

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    "could not stop listening"
    What did you love best about Macbeth: A Novel?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

    The three witches come to life in this telling.


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

    The ending is so compelling-taking you years into Scotland's future.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerome Duluk Palo Alto, CA United States 08-02-16
    Jerome Duluk Palo Alto, CA United States 08-02-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent, but not as good as their Hamlet"

    They added a lot to the story, filling in many details. I loved it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Kaui 06-28-16
    Kaui 06-28-16 Member Since 2015

    I love to walk and run listening to audiobooks

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    "Prosaic brilliance"
    What did you love best about Macbeth: A Novel?

    WOW. So this is what it's like to understand a Shakespeare play - I mean to *really* understand it! This prosiac version of Macbeth is anything but: it is lyrical, haunting, dramatic, terrifying, beautiful, compelling and fascinating. The three crones are at once revolting and mesmerizing. The good fortune of the Macbeths is fraught with foreshadowing terror. The noble Banquo well meaning, far sighted and yet doomed. I thought this approach to Shakespeare brilliant for the illiterates like myself and I am eager to devour the authors' version of Hamlet soon!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Linda 05-25-16
    Linda 05-25-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Narrated beautifully"

    Narrated so wonderfully by Alan Cumming. I could have listened to his storytelling all day... so well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    M. Swope katy, tx United States 04-14-16
    M. Swope katy, tx United States 04-14-16 Member Since 2015

    pinch

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    "Amazing performance!"
    If you could sum up Macbeth: A Novel in three words, what would they be?

    Vivid, tragic, stirring


    What did you like best about this story?

    The performance is incredible! The range of talent that Mr. Cumming brings to bear on the sheer number and kinds of characters is amazing. His narration brings Scotland to life...


    Which character – as performed by Alan Cumming – was your favorite?

    Banquo - with his deep, booming voice and his physical presence.


    If you could take any character from Macbeth: A Novel out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Macbeth himself. He seems honorable and just overall, but tragically flawed. I'd love to get to know him better.


    Any additional comments?

    Listening to this *novel* adapted from Shakespeare just about left me in despair - the story is vivid and the tragedy unfolds perfectly. There is such a remarkable and unstoppable descent to the bitter end that you cannot tear yourself away.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Hugh 03-23-16
    Hugh 03-23-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Leave your scepticism at the door"

    I went into this book weary. I generally don't like "new" approaches to classics but took a chance on Macbeth simply because it was on sale. I feel no need to discuss the plot (you should know the story by now anyways) and simply need to say that I loved it enough that I hope the author does this with other material. Think Game of Thrones with a more meaningful plot and that's what you're getting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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