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)
Probably not. Although this was an interesting idea it didn't really work for me. It turns out you can't really improve on Shakespeare. I never really got into this story. I more forced my way through it than enjoyed it.
Without the skill of the narrator I don't think I would have made it.
The book was downright graphic at times. I couldn't listen to it on a speaker if my daughter was around (because of the cussing and sexual content).
I'm not really sure who would have enjoyed it more. Maybe someone who had never really heard of Macbeth?
Possibly, but it definitely wouldn't be on the top of the list
The accent got to be a bit much. I found myself concentrating on his accent and not what was happening in the book.
I wouldn't cut any character
Very intriguing concept, but I was extremely disappointed. I had such high hopes, and maybe that's what got me in the end.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
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.
Such a let down. Creepy sex scenes that added nothing to the plot, completely out of place and unnecessary to the story. Highly discourage this poor adaptation of a classic story. Narration was alright but the accents were so strong it was sometimes difficult to understand / follow.
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.
Love everything about the narrator. He did an amazing job playing all the parts. He kept me drawn into the story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I haven't listened to him before - I will though. I liked him.
I would, but only if you listen to audio books, like I do, to fall asleep. It will knock you out in 20 minutes.
I keep having to start over, because I keep falling asleep. So the first 3 chapters are wonderful.
NO. He's droning and without passion in acting.
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.
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.
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