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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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Performance
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  •  
    Luke Tembreull 07-05-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting concept, good performance."
    Would you try another book from A. J. Hartley and David Hewson and/or Alan Cumming?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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).

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica GREENVILLE, SC, United States 02-16-14
    Jessica GREENVILLE, SC, United States 02-16-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Intrigued, but ultimately disappointed"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I'm not really sure who would have enjoyed it more. Maybe someone who had never really heard of Macbeth?


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

    Possibly, but it definitely wouldn't be on the top of the list


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The accent got to be a bit much. I found myself concentrating on his accent and not what was happening in the book.


    What character would you cut from Macbeth: A Novel?

    I wouldn't cut any character


    Any additional comments?

    Very intriguing concept, but I was extremely disappointed. I had such high hopes, and maybe that's what got me in the end.

    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
  •  
    David Danielson Dupont, WA United States 01-03-13
    David Danielson Dupont, WA United States 01-03-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Let down"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joy 11-07-12
    Joy 11-07-12
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    "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 2013

    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.

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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
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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
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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 2010
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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
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