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Macbeth: A Novel Audiobook

Macbeth: A Novel

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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

4.1 (2181 )
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Performance
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  •  
    nilay sameer 07-04-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great retelling of a classic"

    loved it. it is a great re-interpretation of a timeless classic. Shakespeare would be proud.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Careena 07-04-15
    Careena 07-04-15 Member Since 2016

    Doctor Who, James Bond, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Gaskell, but mostly just Doctor Who.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not nearly as good as Hamlet"

    I picked this piece up because it was by the same authors who wrote Hamlet, which won book of the year 2014. Not because it was any less well done, nor anything to do with Alan Cummings brilliant performance, it just failed to get me really interested. Macbeth is just a much darker, creepier story than Hamlet and I personally couldn't get into it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 07-02-15
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    1
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    6
    4
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    "Fine"

    I will listen to this again, and that warrants four stars. Not as good as Hamlet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dixie Garner 06-30-15 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    6
    2
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    "Apparently the headline is not optional"

    Nicely done. Helped to bring Macbeth alive and demonstrated that an old story is still relevant.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    F. F. F. Brockport, NY, United States 06-30-15
    F. F. F. Brockport, NY, United States 06-30-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Novel Macbeth"

    I liked that I could understand-follow through with the narrator & that I could bookmark-dog ear as needed. I love using Audible to pass the time or audible KIDS to tuck us in. This program for IOS devices not only keeps us updated it keeps off summer adult & kid atrophying. Don't get me wrong we love books we just use them with audible as companions. If I had this system as a child it would have definitely complicated me educational needs. Thanks for the TEAM from my team.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, AR, United States 05-12-15
    Patrick HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, AR, United States 05-12-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A wonderful listen"

    It's been nearly 60 years since last reading the play. Enjoyed the new treatment/adaptation. May have to pull down the "Works " off the shelf for a read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacinda New Zealand 05-05-15
    Jacinda New Zealand 05-05-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Great story!"

    This book was a very enjoyable version of Shakespeare's play. It kept the reader engaged with great narration as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Littman OH 04-20-15
    D. Littman OH 04-20-15 Member Since 2016

    history buff

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Powerful, compellingly narrated rendition"

    Fabulous audiobook, surely the equal of "Hamlet - the Novel" by the same authors. Anyone interested in Shakespeare will find these more fleshed-out versions of the plays to be interesting. Anyone intimidated by Shakespeare, especially reading or watching the plays with their Elizabethan english, will find these books very approachable, suitable for the layman, and supremely entertaining. Macbeth will give you an unparalleled lens to the period and it will confirm the suspicion that Shakespeare may have been the greatest writer in the history of the english language. The narration is excellent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PeddalAround 04-15-15
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    "Dark and powerful"

    This is a perfect example of cunning writing, a story inspired and yet disturbing, that is delivered by the masterful talent of a true artist. Bravo!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Kenar 03-19-15
    G. Kenar 03-19-15 Member Since 2016

    walket

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    12
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    "Excellent"

    Amazing story, well written piece of art. Extremely glad I bought this and well worth all the time I've invested into it. It was extremely hard to put it down I had to finish listening to it. It was just that good, I couldn't put it down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Russ
    Scarborough, United Kingdom
    7/9/12
    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    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.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph
    Rochdale, UK
    9/26/11
    Overall
    "Absolutely excellent"

    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.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    4/15/14
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    "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.

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    6/20/14
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    "Toil and trouble ..."

    A brutal and marvellous re-telling of the classic dark tale of betrayal and destiny. Loved it!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Jayne
    cassop, United Kingdom
    9/6/12
    Overall
    "Fabulous"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    7/25/12
    Overall
    "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.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. K. Sowden
    UK
    1/30/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent story well read"

    Wonderful story expanding the tragic tale of Macbeth and his wife. Alan Cummings read it very well.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • tontowilliams
    Hampshire, UK
    7/27/11
    Overall
    "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.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. Virginia H. Stewart
    Dorset, England
    12/27/12
    Overall
    "Really excellent story"

    I don't usually like interpretations of Shakespeare, let alone my favourite play, so I had doubts about this version of Macbeth, but I absolutely love it!

    The story fleshes out Shakespeare's Macbeth into a well rounded detailed gripping thriller, which is enhances the original. Small details really bring the characters to life - for example they have given Lady Macbeth a first name, which makes her so real and sympathetic. By detailing the Scottish politics of succession Maceth's actions are far more reasoned and much less based on vaulting ambition.

    I also love the narrator.

    Do download this book and have a listen to a really interesting and gripping story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • VAL G.
    1/16/12
    Overall
    "Macbeth"

    Not sure what I expected from this book and I am new to this tye of literature. Overall I enjoyed it.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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