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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

4.0 (1376 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Profesor Woland 02-22-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    Story
    "just not good...."
    What disappointed you about Macbeth: A Novel?

    I am not really sure who this book is for. I love MacBeth, the play, and the idea of putting it in context I thought was pretty great, but honestly this is just not well written. It drags on, and this is with Allan Cumming, I imagine that someone less gifted would make it slightly more like plowing cement with a hot dog. If this book was read to someone on life support, I would imagine they would awake just to sign a DNR order... And, that's just the Forward...


    What could A. J. Hartley and David Hewson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    never written it


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    He did the best he could, but I would have rather he was utilized for something readable


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I could return it.


    Any additional comments?

    I think I've said enough...

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul D. Singleton Dallas, TX, United States 07-09-12
    Paul D. Singleton Dallas, TX, United States 07-09-12 Member Since 2011

    Men's Minister - Hardcore Christian Men

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    "Why?!?!?"

    OK, first thing. I didn't get far into this. I loved the Scottish brogue! I love the idea of a novelization of "the Scottish play"! I don't understand why every writer feels the neccessity of writing about sex. I can deal with it, but c'mon! Shakespeare was not scared of writing about sex, look at all of his plays! The thing is, to make one of the witches a sex object right from the gate is just disrespectful of the play. I just couldn't get through the long discussion of her and sex to get to the rest of the story. Cumming sounded great, but the story is lacking.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carl Denver, CO, United States 07-22-11
    Carl Denver, CO, United States 07-22-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Macbeth"

    What a disappointment. He changed the nature of Macbeth from a faithful general who becomes a traitor to another scheming person waiting for an opportunity. Duncan went from a good and kind leader to a leacherous old man who deserved to be removed from the throne. The sons were totally unworthy of the throne. Since Shakespeare wrote the play to ingratiate himself with the royal family this hardly seems like that kind of tale. My daughter (an English teacher) and I turned it off even though it is a short book.

    3 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Murray San Diego CA 01-08-12
    Barbara Murray San Diego CA 01-08-12 Member Since 2006

    Love2Read

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    "Interesting imaginative story, terrible narration"
    Would you listen to Macbeth: A Novel again? Why?

    I wouldn't listen to this novel again although I might read it. The narration was atrocious. The pervasive fake Scottish accent nearly ruined the experience for me. I only kept listening because the story behind the mysterious and often poorly motivated characters in Shakespeare's play was so interesting.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Macbeth: A Novel?

    The scenes with the witches, especially that familiar first meeting with Macbeth and Banquo, were wildly imaginative.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The fake Scottish accent was truly horrible. It vacillated wildly from very strong to barely present. At the very least if the narrator had kept the accent confined to dialogue and left it out of the narrative, this might have improved the whole. This is one of the most disappointing audio books I have purchased from the stand point of the narration.


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

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    The story is very creative, providing an attempt to understand the psychology behind the characters who seem somewhat two dimensional in Shakespeare's work. The story behind the

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 09-17-11
    Hal Miami, FL, United States 09-17-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Lively start, but weak ending"
    What did you like best about Macbeth: A Novel? What did you like least?

    If blood, gore, and witches are your taste, you will get plenty of these. I enjoyed all the action, blood and all.

    It must have been written with a movie in mind, and I am sure the scenery was magnificent - and the heavy-handed plot (lots of muscle, but little brain) would be no difficulty there.

    After MacBeth became King, the story started falling apart, and I stopped listening to it.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Macbeth: A Novel?

    Where he killed the traitor, realized he had probably made a mistake, but put it out of his mind.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Narration is excellent, sounds like a Scot


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Yes


    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J Riverton, WV, United States 01-31-12
    J Riverton, WV, United States 01-31-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Not what I expected."

    The story was a little to graphic for my taste and difficult to follow. I did not finish it.

    0 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken Noorladner 07-05-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Fascinating but..."

    Having never studied Shakespear I thought I'd give this audio book a listen. It's definitely riveting! (I couldn't stop listening to it) As a Christian I strongly recommend NOT listening to it. It's dark. It's R rated, and it gives two messages that aren't necessarily true.

    Fist message: Evil suggestions can come from readily identifiable evil sources. Not true: Evil can come in the nicest, friendliest and most appealing ways. However the book accurately portrays the fact that we humans have evil lurking within us that can easily come out given the right circumstances.

    Second message: If you live in a black and white world of right and wrong, and you've been doing right most of your life, and then decide to do evil, you will quickly descend into even worse evil. So you better keep a balanced head and live in the grey zone. My take: There is an element of truth to that, but rather than live in the grey zone, flee to God for redemption through Jesus. Confess your sins to your fellow men and ask for forgiveness. Restoration is possible, and peace of mind can be had! (Actually that possibility was open to Macbeth in this story by his friend [in a more limited way] but he was too weak to take it)

    On a technical level: Excellent Job guys!

    14 of 124 people found this review helpful
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