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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

4.1 (1380 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Patrick Weldon Louisiana 08-31-11
    Patrick Weldon Louisiana 08-31-11 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    143
    ratings
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    "Outstanding !"

    One of the better audible recordings available. Great story, subtly modernized but retains the character of Shakespeare. Huge thumbs up !
    .

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah West Lebanon, NH, United States 07-17-12
    Sarah West Lebanon, NH, United States 07-17-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "absolutely excellent"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonny 01-19-12
    Bonny 01-19-12

    Addicted to books, both print and audio-.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    402
    ratings
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    "Well, that was terrific!"

    Thoroughly engaging, beautifully narrated, fresh take on the Macbeths. I recommend it highly! Now I'm going to listen to the play . . .

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-07-11 Member Since 2006

    peasweep

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    "Fantastic all around - The BEST"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BK 08-28-11
    BK 08-28-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A 12-29-11
    A 12-29-11 Member Since 2003

    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An interesting experiment"

    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.


    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Publicker 02-17-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Chilling work"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith RIVERSIDE, CA, United States 11-20-11
    Judith RIVERSIDE, CA, United States 11-20-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow! Buy this, you'll want to listen to it again!"

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandy 11-18-11
    Sandy 11-18-11

    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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Macbeth is alive."

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MARIETTA, GA, United States 08-15-11
    Amazon Customer MARIETTA, GA, United States 08-15-11 Member Since 2004

    WildWiseWoman

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A worthy and worthwhile effort"

    I really enjoyed this reading, in fact, so much that I attempted to purchase paper copies for family members who don't listen to audiobooks. Alas and alack, ONLY this audio version is thus available! But it's wonderful, giving a consistent and richly detailed view of Medieval life in Scotland. The Thane and his missus are wonderfully fleshed out, horribly flawed yet completely likable. Their situation, relationship and personalities are very well-defined and believable. Wry humor and foreshadowing are liberally thrown about, yet I still found myself hoping for a different ending! Not THE definitive version of Macbeth (which I hope we never see, as the stars will begin to wink out when we do) but a fun and engaging visit to the castles of the lairds and lasses. Alan Cumming is superb as reader, although he could have been coached on the proper pronunciation of Samhain. :-)

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 11-20 of 147 results PREVIOUS12315NEXT
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  • 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.

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

    5 of 6 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.

    2 of 2 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.

    2 of 2 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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    6/20/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Toil and trouble ..."

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

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • 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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • ROBERT
    CHELMSFORD, United Kingdom
    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • B
    Cheadle, United Kingdom
    4/17/13
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    A very original,enthralling slant on the old story.Beautifully narrated in Scottish accents which makes it feel so authentic

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Angus
    Birmingham, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Very Good"

    It's impossible to review this book without referring to Shakespeare, but to make a straight comparison doesn't really do it justice. The book stands on it's own right and is quite gripping. The description of the time and location really brings the world to life and the characters feel quite real. Alan Cumming is an excellent reader and he uses a voice that feels as if its from the period itself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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