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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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  •  
    E. A. Newton Singapore (and Park City, UT USA) 01-07-15
    E. A. Newton Singapore (and Park City, UT USA) 01-07-15 Member Since 2014

    Avid reader with an inability to sit still... thank God for Audible :)

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    "A new twist on an old tale"

    Although this plot is one of the oldest on record, and the play a classic, these authors have presented a story that is at once fresh, gritty, dark, and thought provoking.
    And, the performance was magnificent!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sharon 01-06-15
    sharon 01-06-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Too much!!!"

    Fell far short of "Hamlet". Very disappointed. Seemed to be too much of everything except truth or anything worth remembering. Certainly hard to ever listen again!

    1 of 2 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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nita 08-25-13
    Nita 08-25-13
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    "Better than Shakespeare's original"

    The personalities, motivations and passions behind school-learned names come alive in the best possible way in this book. I was enthralled by the authors' expansion of the tale into this narrative creation.

    And Alan Cummins' performance was the best twist of all. His Scottish authenticity kept the characters ringing in my ears long past the end of the book.

    Recommended for anyone who likes Game of Thrones, Shakespeare, or a story in which good people make bad choices.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leissa San Antonio, TX, United States 08-11-13
    Leissa San Antonio, TX, United States 08-11-13 Member Since 2009

    I LOVE audiobooks. Audible is the only way I read my favorite books.

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    "Actors Don't Always Make Very Good Narrators"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Not the audiobook. The novel itself is very interesting. I've always wanted to see Macbeth as a novel vs. a play. However, as wonderful a character actor as Jim Cummings is, he is not that great of a narrator. His Scottish accent is so thick it is hard to understand and he doesn't distinguish the characters by doing the different voices very well (the big reason I almost exclusively read audiobooks these days).


    What other book might you compare Macbeth: A Novel to and why?

    Braveheart. Pillars of the Earth. I don't usually read novels like this, but it compares to any of the other good, medieval historical fiction I have read.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The voices and less of an accent.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it's very long and hard to listen to. The narrator's strong accent makes it difficult to do anything else while listening because you have to concentrate on his words so much in order to understand what he's saying.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jimheh New Berlin, WI USA 07-11-13
    jimheh New Berlin, WI USA 07-11-13 Member Since 2002

    jimheh

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    "Great Adaptation"

    This is the best version of the great tale I've ever came across. The narration is superb.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Egger Ontario, CA United States 06-23-13
    Richard Egger Ontario, CA United States 06-23-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Best Audible Experience So Far"
    Where does Macbeth: A Novel rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is my best audible experience so far. I have found that I get bored about half way through most of the books I have tried. This one, however, kept me coming back for more. It also helps that it was not terribly long.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    MacBeth was a great character. Listening to his emotional struggles and his attempts to hold on to what made him such a good man in the first place, drives the story. I have never read the play, so I did not know the story.


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

    The narrator had an accent that helped with atmosphere. If I had read the book, I would not have heard Scotland in my mind's ear.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan San Diego, CA, United States 03-01-13
    Alan San Diego, CA, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Pleasant surprise!"

    I felt like I was taking a big risk with this book. I’ve never liked Shakespeare plays on TV and didn’t like reading them in high school. After reading the reviews and listening to the preview, I decided to risk a credit. Glad I did! This book features an excellent narration and a great, well written story. No boring moments, lots of detailed action and a bit of interesting history. This book is a rare gem!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith A. Weller LaVale, MD United States 03-22-12
    Judith A. Weller LaVale, MD United States 03-22-12 Member Since 2008

    jw1917

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    "Alan Cummings is what makes this book"

    This is a hard book to review. In one sense it is very compelling and certainly the narration by Alan Cummings make the story more vivid than another narrator would.

    The background premise of turning Shakespeare's play into a novel is somewhat less successful. I think the role in the story played by the 3 witches is overdone and they are far too prominent in the story. I guess somehow I prefer Shakespeare's play or Verdi's Opera to this novel.

    The first part of the books is much better than the end -- after the murder of King Duncan I think the books goes downhill very rapidly and degernates into just mindless descriptions of slaughter interspersed with the witches. The books really takes too many liberties of Shakespeare and with history to be a satisfying book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ralph spokane, WA, United States 01-26-12
    Ralph spokane, WA, United States 01-26-12 Member Since 2013

    Audible Addict. Hopelessly addicted to Audible and find myself listening to books at every chance. The Audible sales feed my addiction!!

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    "Alan Cumming makes the story"
    What did you like best about this story?

    Alan Cumming narrating in his native speaking voice makes this worth the listen. The story is not that different from the Shakespeare version but its a fun listen.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not a very long novel so did not take me long to listen to.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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