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)
To use more of the actual historical figure and less of Shakespeare
Unknown at this stage
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.
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.
I do not think I would listen to these authors again. Good writers with dark minds.
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.
No. I've seen enough filth.
I would not recommend this to my friends for they would never think well of me again.
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.
"Think you know Macbeth - think again!"
This retelling of the tale by David Hewson and A J Hartley is just simply amazing. Bringing a new depth to the story, this is no repeating the original Shakespeare but an inspired reworking, incredibly bought to life by the vocal talents of Alan Cumming.
Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, King Duncan and The Witches are all brought vividly to life.
The writing is amazing and the narration is one of the best that I have heard on audible.
If you think Shakespeare is too stuffy or full of flowery words then this interpretation will give you a new appreciation of classic literature bought up to date by modern audiobooks.
"Shakespeare interpreted the story so much better"
I had thought this book would be an historical novel closer to the real story of Macbeth rather than a re-working of Shakespeare’s play. However, it turned out to be a fleshing out of the play with some variations from Shakespeare’s imaginative changes from his source material Hollingshead’s History of Scotland. The present authors change some of the most gripping scenes in the play and alter the portrayal of characters such as King Duncan from a saintly monarch to a lecher who preys on young girls and Banquo from a fine man into a father who sneers unreasonably at his son, Fleance. I think their changes diminished the balance of the story so ably constructed by Shakespeare.
Some of the historical detail is interesting but at other times the narrative is like a romantic novel with some raunchy sex scenes shoe-horned in. I kept feeling that the central story was being submerged by verbiage. Rather than illuminating the story with extra details the authors have deadened it by their excessively descriptive prose laden with adjectives and similes: the kind of adolescent writing ones hopes to leave behind with experience. Even at crucial points in the story such as Duncan’s murder; Lady Macbeth’s suicide and Macbeth’s death there are endless diversions of detail and excess verbiage that ruin the momentum of the scene. A few phrases are lifted from Shakespeare’s play and these shine as examples of great writing.
This audio book finishes with a postscript from the authors explaining what they had done and, while I accept that a novel is different from a play, I think their version lacks the pace, subtle human psychology and character development of the play. The saying "less is more" comes to mind.
I was glad when the book ended as I was repeatedly infuriated by the florid prose.
The talented Scottish actor Alan Cummings does a grand job of bringing the characters to life and inject excitement into the battle scenes.
What a brilliant interpretation , of the classic Macbeth, the narrator was excellent he made the story come alive, I'm so glad I bought this as I shall listen to it again.
"A good idea"
The idea behind this book is excellent. The historical insights are interesting and some of the imagery really vivid. Nevertheless the book suffers from a major problem and that is that we all know what is going to happen in the end. Furthermore I was struck by how desperately upsetting the story is. If you see the play in a theatre, you can go out and chat to your friends or whatever and take a deep breath and look about you. Here the authors tell a tale of unremitting horror and bloodthirsty-ness and there are moments when it all gets a bit much! However, the story is told from a very thought-provoking, and I would argue, contemporary perspective. This is no replacement for seeing the play, but an intriguing discussion of the historical person of Macbeth. I particularly liked the way the authors weave in passages from the play – these passages work very well within the story and remind the listener/reader of the authors’ starting point.
I never did Shakespeare at school and even now I follow the Bertie Wooster philosophy of "...sounds well but doesn't mean anything." (Call me a Philistine if you wish).
This book however is an exciting adventure story set in the 11th Century and whether you know Shakespeare or not it is page turning stuff (or the audio equivalent).
I highly recommend this for just what it is.
"Toil and trouble ..."
A brutal and marvellous re-telling of the classic dark tale of betrayal and destiny. Loved it!
I have to admit to being very dubious about this book, but decided to take the plunge and try it because I absolutely adore the play (despite studying it at school!)
The positives are that the Shakespearean story remains intact and very well interpreted, it is set conventionally in 11th century Scotland, and I have to say that Alan Cumming is absolutely brilliant as a reader. The plot is the same as the play and belts along just like the play. The authors have really fleshed out the characters with more back story and more characterisation.
There is only one negative and this is that I was expecting more of the historical King Macbeth who died in 1057. Now this may just be me and my reading of the blurb above but I was expecting more of the historical facts rather than the novel just sticking to Shakespeare's version of events.
That said, it is a great book and well worth a listen.
Not sure what I expected from this book and I am new to this tye of literature. Overall I enjoyed it.
"my fav new novel"
This is an excellent story wonderfully read and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Enjoy.
A very original,enthralling slant on the old story.Beautifully narrated in Scottish accents which makes it feel so authentic
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