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)
I had high hopes for this book, but instead found that it was half terribly written fantasy and half original play rewritten with mostly modern English. The characters are all even more 2 dimensional than the original play.
This book does a great job of telling the story and filling in the blanks. I really enjoyed how the authors approached such a historic work. Congratulations
Despite what one of the coauthors says in the afterward of the book, they do not reinterpret the text as Shakespeare first did. This was an attempt to fully flesh out centuries old characters with extensive back stories and compelling motivation, but in the end the authors' filled in the blanks of the play's script, despite claims to do the opposite. Want to make it more engaging? Do what Shakespeare did not: extend the story to the length of Macbeth's entire reign! Make the story and the characters layered! Turn it into a true political drama. Make Lady Macbeth more than a hysterical woman grieving for every dead child that she comes across. Show the juxtaposition between the kindness and brutal warrior spirit inside Macbeth. Something! Anything to put meat on this starving husk of one of Shakespeare's bests!
Honestly, I would rather read academic papers on Lady Macbeth being the anti-mother witch and the delve deeper into the witch mythology. In my opinion, the witches, despite their poor characterizations were the most interesting aspect of the novel. Even then, they're not exactly a saving grace for the book. Their circumstances are interesting but in the end they're like everyone else, easily dismissible. In the end, the same could be said for the novel itself: it is easily dismissible.
This isn't what I thought. It was on sale and seeing that it was Shakespeare I thought I would give it a go. Maybe that was my problem, this isn't Shakespeare. I thought it was average at best and felt a little cheated by not experiencing more of Shakespeare. My fault for not paying more attention to the summary of the book.
The narrator was OK; not great. It was good to have a Scottish accent tell the story but his characters all sounded basically the same.
Anyway, not my cup of tea I guess.
Doctor Who, James Bond, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Gaskell, but mostly just Doctor Who.
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.
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.
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