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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

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  •  
    Fred Topsham, MA, United States 08-18-11
    Fred Topsham, MA, United States 08-18-11
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    "A story for every Scotsman"

    We were in the areas of Scotland where the story takes place. It was great fun listening to the stories of where we were. What was more fun is that I'm a second generation Scot and listening to the Scottish accent.

    The reader of this book brought me through the Grampians, into the towns of Fores and Inverness and all over nothern Scotland.

    If you're of Scottish descent I highly recommend this book. I really enjoyed it.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Rither 07-19-11
    Alan Rither 07-19-11
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    "Great concept almost perfectly delivered"

    The concept is great. Take a story that we already know in outline that has withstood the test of time and 'fill in the blanks' where the playwright didn't have the luxury of providing the backstory to his audience. The authors remain faithful to everything in Shakespeare's play while exploring possible reasons for the behavior of the characters. The narration is outstanding -- even masterful. However I felt a bit disappointed that the authors felt the need to make the story a bit too modern by using the f-word as if we need to be assured that we are getting the raw, unvarnished truth about the dispicable Duncan. I realize that critics may counter that Shakespeare was blunt and bawdy in some of his scenes and I accept that. Maybe it's just my sense that a dramatic story can be told without the need of resorting to such devices. Let's have more of these 'made for audio' stories like this, but don't mar the work by thinking that it has to mimic the contemporary style in such aspects.

    5 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter 08-01-12
    Peter 08-01-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Disappointing read"
    What would have made Macbeth: A Novel better?

    To use more of the actual historical figure and less of Shakespeare


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

    Unknown at this stage


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

    N/A


    What character would you cut from Macbeth: A Novel?

    The porter


    Any additional comments?

    NA

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Waters Laguna Beach, CA, United States 09-15-11
    Waters Laguna Beach, CA, United States 09-15-11
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    "Elise"

    I felt the authors took too many liberties and made the story too dark and explecite.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Hayward, CA, United States 07-12-11
    Glenn Hayward, CA, United States 07-12-11 Member Since 2010
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    "A very, very good novel!!"

    I loved this interpretation of Macbeth. It added some characters the play does not have. I got a better understanding of the main characters after hearing this audio book. I loved Alan Cumming's narration, he was excellent. All in all this was an A-1 effort good for those who are familiar with the play and those who are not.

    9 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joanna 10-18-13
    Joanna 10-18-13
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    "Too much sex"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I love old stories and I love Shakespeare. I was excited about hearing Shakespeare in a narrative form and from the mouth of a Scot. I had read several reviews before I chose this book. I am very careful which books I select. I was very surprised and disappointed to find that the authors are obsessed with making every good and evil element of the plot lead back to sex. You can tell that this book was written by men as the love that Macbeth and his wife had for each other was given meaning by their sex life far above anything else. I have been happily married almost 10 years and while I think this is important, my goodness! Get on to something else! It was far too descriptive about these parts for my taste, though I know the world, particularly Hollywood, is going this direction. I did not buy this book expecting a "lust in the dust" novel. The authors are very good writers otherwise but obviously lack the desire for subtlety. There was so much of thrusting and groaning. I would never on my life let a teenager read this- they have ideas running through their head for this imagery. As a married woman, at least it wasn't traumatic, but although I know the book was supposed to portray the events as the most tender and wild, and the most evil and animalistic turning points in men's lives, I thought it could have been done without all the intense description of naked frolics.


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

    I do not think I would listen to these authors again. Good writers with dark minds.


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

    I loved the narrator. I am a descendent of MacDuff and loved to hear the language in the story of a people from my line long gone.


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

    No. I've seen enough filth.


    Any additional comments?

    I would not recommend this to my friends for they would never think well of me again.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Denise 02-09-15
    Denise 02-09-15
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    "Intense"

    Narrator was wonderful, of course.

    The story panted vivid images of the terrible deeds man is capable of (man meaning human). It demonstrates how one bad deed begets another and the inevitable chaos those actions reap.

    Very dark but very well done. After all, are we not all comprised of both dark and light sides?

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rena Alisa Los Gatos, CA, US 01-10-15
    Rena Alisa Los Gatos, CA, US 01-10-15 Member Since 2015
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    "A nice try"

    If Shakespeare had written a novel instead of a play -- this might be close.. There are some nice descriptions to set the time and place. There is an additional character to tie things together and move the "history" along. If Giuseppe Verdi can turn Macbeth into a first rate opera, why not a novel?
    This book is interesting and well written, but I have seen the play and it is totally fantastic! You can't beat Shakespeare at the writing game. This book lacks -- well -- it lacks drama!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-21-13
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 09-21-13 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "Unremarkable writing, but a window into the origin"

    This audio novelization of Shakespeare's famous play attempts to flesh out the characters and motives of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and others, by filling in scenes that happen offstage in the original. Indeed, it gave me new appreciation for the powerful themes in Shakespeare’s original work. Hartley and Hewson’s interpretation of the tragedy is of an honorable man who sees the future of Scotland threatened by an overreaching ruler, and commits an act of treachery for the greater good, spurred on by a prophecy that provides a convenient rationale for his actions (don’t trust those witches!). However, Macbeth’s murder of Duncan under his own roof is a monstrous act that can't be undone, and the threat of exposure combined with his own shame sets him on a path even more violence. It could, to varying degrees, be the story of a few more modern political figures.

    That said, I didn’t find the level of writing here to be very impressive, which isn’t surprising given that one of the authors pens thrillers. If not for the Shakespeare connection, this would be forgettable historical fiction -- except, of course, for the lines obviously taken from the Bard himself. Still, it was worth the price I paid at an audible.com sale. Alan Cumming’s Scottish-accented reading is quite pleasant on the ears.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rosie Sneed Lansing, MI United States 04-12-13
    Rosie Sneed Lansing, MI United States 04-12-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Disappointed."

    This play is one of my favorites, but this version is not. Too crude for me. The reader is excellent, however.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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