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)
There seems to be a run of Shakespearean adaptations in fiction of late. In addition to this one, I recently reviewed 'Iago' by David Snodden, and 'I, Iag'o by Nicole Galland. 'Macbeth: A Novel' is the collaborative creation of British crime writer A. J. Hartley and David Hewson, a professor of Shakespeare who writes thrillers in his spare time. Although I'm not a reader of either genre, I am a Shakespearean and know the play very well. I wasn't quite sure what to expect of 'Macbeth: A Novel'; after all, no one can improve upon Shakespeare, and many of the adaptations I've read are either laughable or maddening. So I was pleasantly surprised and even enjoyed this one--perhaps particularly because I listened to the audiobook, wonderfully read by Alan Cumming, who for once was free to revel in his glorious Scottish accent.
Hewson and Hartley stick pretty closely to the bare bones of the plot that we are all familiar with, but they take free reign in filling in the "offstage" details. For example, the first third of the book puts readers right in the middle of the civil rebellion and Norse invasion that have been going on as the play opens. We see Macbeth and Banquo fighting in the field; we see Macbeth's capture of the rebel Macdonwald, the blow-by-blow fight to his bloody death preceded by a verbal exchange that prefigures Macbeth's own treacherous acts. Shakespeare, on the contrary, perfunctorily has messengers deliver the news of Macbeth's victories to King Duncan. Back on the home front, the authors give Lady Macbeth a name of her own (Skena). They provide an answer to the oft-asked question, "Where are Lady Macbeth's children?" And they give us plenty of chat between the couple that helps us to understand the powerful forces between them. Interior flashbacks also flesh out the Macbeths' individual biographies, and frequently we're made privy as to what is going on in their minds. Hewson and Hartley imaginatively--but not fantastically--fill in the blanks: why exactly Macbeth turns on Banquo, what happens to Fleance after his father's murder, who the weird sisters are and how they came to be witches, what daily life is like at Macduff's castle before the assassins arrive, and more.
I won't be recommending this book as a classic, or even a must-read. The style is probably better suited to crime novels and thriller: a bit too 'colorful' and 'overwrought,' shall we say, for my taste. Yet it fits just fine with the story of Macbeth. This was a fun piece to breeze through at the end of the semester, which is always a stressful time for me. If the idea of a thriller-crime novel version of Macbeth, read in a charming and authentic Scottish accent by a fine actor, appeals to you, I say, go for it!
What an amazing book! The authors of this really transformed a Shakespearean play into a fascinating, accessible historical novel. The performance is extraordinary. The authors use lyrical prose that flows naturally, as opposed to a rigid adherence to awkward Shakespearean dialogue.
It's just a really great historical novel. I listened in one sitting!
I had read much of Shakespeare's work, but somehow I never read Macbeth. So it's a double treat for me!
I hope to see more from this writing team!
This is without a doubt the best way to introduce Shakesper - I've read seen just about every interpretation of Macbetha dn this is by far the best. Makes it come alive, somehow even makes it relevant to today.
A great novelized version of Macbeth. As the author notes in the afterward, this version is just that -- a novelized version. Well worth listening to, the reader's voices and cadence are right on.
I've read the Shakespeare original (and liked it), but this version breathes a whole new life into the characters. Everyone has a history and secret desires and fears, so their tragedies become much more poignant. lady macbeth was particularly transformed in my mind, and the weird sisters were much more sinister. the narration was fantastic, and exactly right for the task.
I had a visceral reaction to this work. Alan Cummings brings the listener into the action. And that action is horrible and human and sad. The dismay of Lady Macbeth at the consequences of her actions and the evilness of Fergus stood out to me. Highly recommended.
Love to read. Mysteries, history, romance, biography, current events, science, classic fiction. No vampires. No zombies. No self-help. Find me on GoodReads and BookLikes.
You always remember your first--and way back in 5th grade, Macbeth was my first venture into Shakespeare. Miss Weil loved Shakespeare and she introduced her class to the magic. Macbeth--in iambic pentameter-- was our 5th grade play. It is still my favorite Shakespeare. That said, I was just not sure how I would react to a novelization of the story.
Surprisingly, I stuck it out to the end-- and surprisingly, I didn't hate it. I didn't love it entirely either but that was because there were places where I just didn't agree with Hartley and Hewson's interpretation of events and motivations. However, I learned a lot about the historical background of the play and perhaps got a better idea of what life was like in those times. In short, it gave me a better understanding of the play.
Nonetheless, the novel stands on its own; its a good read. You don't need to know Shakespeare's play to get through the story. You don't have to be a Lit. major to enjoy it. In fact, you might even be better off not arriving with so much baggage.
Finally, kudos to the narrator Alan Cummings--and to the person who chose him. The book may have been written in prose but it read like poetry. Not since I heard Lisette Lescat read the 'No.1 Ladies' Detective' series have I heard such a perfect pairing of material and reader.
This is great! The narrator has a beautiful accent that perfectly fits the characters yet is easily understandable. It's Macbeth in modern English so there's not all that Elizabethan English to plod through that normally detracts from being able to understand the plot. Not historically accurate, one must remember that Shakespeare was writing to please Queen Elizabeth I so his plays were designed to degrade Elizabeth's enemies which would include the Plantagenets and the Scots. With this in mind, this is a beautiful listen. The lilting prose practically becoming poetry in the process.
Love having someone read me a story. Fires in the hearth, rain on the roof, sunny days and surf. Good friends, good food and J S Bach.
Great concept delivered by Hartley and Hewson. And it really works so well. Macbeth simply comes alive. The reading is just perfect. The land, the personalities, the ' history' unfolding are all full of life, that it is almost like a hologram where the whole story is being enacted in my living room.
Over the years I've tried several times to get into Shakespeare's version of this most interesting tale. I just couldn't do it. (Sorry Professor Hartley, I was an economics major.) This book is well written and superbly narrated. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
"Macbeth a Novel"
An expertly crafted adaptation of the play which moves easily along while sustaining a dramatic darkness.Only downside for me was the whining Kelvinside accent of the narrator!
"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.
"a modern MacBeth"
never having read the original Shakespear I was pleasantly surprised with this version, it gave a modern feel and atmosphere to the story, especially with all the geographical mentions of places I know or grew up near. Alan Cumming was a great choice or narrator for this novel. I would definitely get other books read by him or other Shakespear novels adapted by these authors.
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