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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

4.0 (1316 )
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4.4 (1090 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Joy GRESHAM, OREGON, United States 11-07-12
    Joy GRESHAM, OREGON, United States 11-07-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    93
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Narrator Story was ok"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I did not like the repetitiveness of the author describing things over and over again. I get it one of the witches has milky white teeth like that of a new born child. I did not need to hear that over and over again.


    Would you ever listen to anything by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson again?

    Maybe?


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    Love everything about the narrator. He did an amazing job playing all the parts. He kept me drawn into the story.


    Did Macbeth: A Novel inspire you to do anything?

    Not really


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel YAKIMA, WA, United States 08-21-12
    Rachel YAKIMA, WA, United States 08-21-12 Member Since 2009

    I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not an improvement on the original"

    I bought the book because other reviewers recommended it as adding depth to the play. The play is shorter, true, but all the additions from this retelling of the Shakespeare classic only added tediously to the length of the story, doing nothing to add insight or value.

    I expected this version to increase my understanding of the history of Scotland or the politics of Scotland at the time of the story. Indeed, I thought this book would be a blending of history and a classic story.

    I would not recommend this book for people who enjoy history. I would recommend this to listeners who enjoy drama, or maybe melodrama. If you liked Macbeth, the play, but wish it were four times as long and more depressingly violent and grotesque, buy this book.

    I have to admit, in retrospect, I was at fault for expecting to enjoy the book. I knew the story and should have remembered that there is nothing in in to give one faith in human nature. I will now go mope around depressively.



    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Inkom, ID, United States 08-18-12
    Paula Inkom, ID, United States 08-18-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting View of Shakespeare's Infamous Tale"
    What did you like best about Macbeth: A Novel? What did you like least?

    I liked the human side the author's created. I didn't always agree with some of the characteristic choices the authors assigned to some of the well known characters, but I guess that's the beauty of literature, we all bring personal expectations to things we read.

    Macbeth was interesting to me as a novel because I hate teaching it to my seniors. I was hoping to connect to it more, and I think it worked. I'm going to give it another try; I might even play one of the battle scenes for the kids.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    I think the battle scenes were really well written. It was not difficult to picture the scenes, especially at the end when Macduff challenges Macbeth. I often had trouble with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Sometimes their relationship was weakly drawn.


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

    I haven't listened to him before - I will though. I liked him.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jill Ann Kiar Concord, CA United States 07-24-12
    Jill Ann Kiar Concord, CA United States 07-24-12 Listener Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    6
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    0
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    "If you need a good night's sleep..."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    I would, but only if you listen to audio books, like I do, to fall asleep. It will knock you out in 20 minutes.


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

    I keep having to start over, because I keep falling asleep. So the first 3 chapters are wonderful.


    Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

    NO. He's droning and without passion in acting.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Its a sleeper. If you are like me and need to wind your mind down to sleep at night (because of work, school, etc...) this is a GREAT book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 04-28-12
    Nathan Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 04-28-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Utterly disappointing"

    I bought this book partly on the high recommendations, which demonstrates that one can easily be mislead. While the narration was satisfactory, the characters in this "attempt" at a novel are nothing but cardboard cut-outs. There is zero depth to any character in the book. The book is heavily laden with overworn cliches such as "the milk of human kindness." Are you kidding me? It was at this point that I quit listening to the book and deleted it from my library. I'd be as well satisfied by a Harlequin Romance... and probably get a better story as well.

    My main regrets are the money I wasted on this book, and the hours I wasted listening to half of it.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tyler Charlotte, NC, United States 02-21-12
    Tyler Charlotte, NC, United States 02-21-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    5
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    "Too difficult to understand narrator"

    I have finished, at time of writing, 43 out of 43 audiobooks I have gotten from audible, meaning I have always finished what I buy. I stopped listening to this after 5 minutes. The author has a very strong scotish accent, which I get MacBeth is scotish and all, but at the same time I cannot understand the narrator. I had to give up. No idea how the book turns out, though I was excited about it. Guess I'll have to get a written book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sherry Kirkland, WA, United States 12-30-11
    sherry Kirkland, WA, United States 12-30-11 Member Since 2004
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    "There's a reason why it's a play"

    If you can't watch or read the play, then I highly recommend this novelization. This novel explains and explores what is drama and nuance in the play. The novel tells me what I can deeply feel and know from watching the play. That's my reason for giving the story 3 stars--I prefer the original.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cyd 08-25-11
    Cyd 08-25-11
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    "Dreadful!"

    I am a lover of all things Shakespeare, so assumed I would enjoy this modern rendition narrated by the lyrical Alan Cumming. MacBeth has never disappointed me and have been pleased with the many dramatizations I've seen in the last 40 years. This audio book was quite disappointing. Actually, it was dreadful. It was becoming so gruesome about 40% into the play that I threw my recording CV's away. That said, this is never an easy play. At times, it is overpowering in its intensity. This recording however, was pure and simply horror - and overly bloody at that. If you are looking for this sort of recording of this Shakespeare classic, then this is for you. If you are hoping for something more versatile, rich and entertaining, look elsewhere.

    2 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deanne Bloomington, IN, United States 03-14-13
    Deanne Bloomington, IN, United States 03-14-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring...."

    I had a hard time getting through the story because the narration is just boring, flat, no real emotion. It's a good book to listen to if you want to go to sleep. It just drones on and on. I didn't finish it.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Profesor Woland NY, NY 02-22-13
    Profesor Woland NY, NY 02-22-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    139
    2
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    Story
    "just not good...."
    What disappointed you about Macbeth: A Novel?

    I am not really sure who this book is for. I love MacBeth, the play, and the idea of putting it in context I thought was pretty great, but honestly this is just not well written. It drags on, and this is with Allan Cumming, I imagine that someone less gifted would make it slightly more like plowing cement with a hot dog. If this book was read to someone on life support, I would imagine they would awake just to sign a DNR order... And, that's just the Forward...


    What could A. J. Hartley and David Hewson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    never written it


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    He did the best he could, but I would have rather he was utilized for something readable


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I could return it.


    Any additional comments?

    I think I've said enough...

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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