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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

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Sort by:
  •  
    Patrick Weldon Louisiana 08-31-11
    Patrick Weldon Louisiana 08-31-11 Listener Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
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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
  •  
    S. Publicker 02-17-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
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    370
    9
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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.

    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
    568
    ratings
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    96
    65
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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 2015

    peasweep

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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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
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 11-15-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 11-15-11 Member Since 2015

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4357
    ratings
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    12
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    "Incredible"

    As intimidating as he can be, I love Shakespeare and have since I first read Romeo and Juliet. While I have felt I never really understood all of his writing, his words and use of the English language were worth reading or listening to just for their own sake. For this reason, I had my doubts about reading/listening to this book. I mean how can you improve on Shakespeare for god's sake. Well I was not disappointed. This is one incredible book and made even better in audio-form by Audible.

    This psychological drama was first made clearer to me when I first listened to another Audible selection, SmartPass Plus Audio Education Study Guide to Macbeth. This is one in a series of selections by Smartpass where a number of classics are read or really dramatized by actors and commented upon along the way. The second half of the audiobook is read without interruption. If you want to better understand the classics I cannot recommend these audiobooks more highly. They're terrific.

    With regard to this new treatment, this novel, I have to say the same. It is riveting. This is one of those books where you sit in your driveway way too long after arriving home just to keep listening. The narration does justice to the work itself. Not only will you love the words, you will love how they are spoken. For me, this was one of the best books of the year and more.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BK 08-28-11
    BK 08-28-11
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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 2013

    No vampires. No zombies. No self-help. Find me on BookLikes. Audible Member since 2002!

    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
  •  
    Judith RIVERSIDE, CA, United States 11-20-11
    Judith RIVERSIDE, CA, United States 11-20-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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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
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  • 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
  • Sylvia
    Baldock, United Kingdom
    4/12/13
    Overall
    "Wonderful audiobook"

    This novel was fantastic. As someone who has always loved MacBeth, but found the play hard to follow, this really brought the whole story to life and I understood many parts that I had missed before. I was worried that it might be oversimplified,like a school revision guide, but it wasn't at all. It was a gripping, engaging version of Macbeth. I'd love to see more novels based on Shakespeare's plays like this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    KILMACOLM, United Kingdom
    2/21/13
    Overall
    "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!

    0 of 0 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • r
    THETFORD, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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