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Editorial 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.

Critic Reviews

“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 Ratings

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  • James
  • Oswego, IL, United States
  • 09-21-16

Fantastic

Oh, the deep, brooding tempest of Macbeth and the twisted consequences of free will.....amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's take on the witches three. They were not the harbingers of doom, merely "innocent " bystanders observing the characters choose their paths and unfortunately their destruction. The narration was incredible. Definitely worth the listen. Enjoy.

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All the plays...

...please! This is the first of two novelisations written by this very talented pair of Shakespeare's plays. I listened to both of them this week, having just happened upon their retelling of Hamlet. Bravo! True enough to their source, they also breathe new life into them. Whether you are already familiar with the tales or, perhaps even more so, if you are not, give either of these a listen. Time and credits well spent indeed.

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Excellent, but not as good as their Hamlet

They added a lot to the story, filling in many details. I loved it!

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Narrated beautifully

Narrated so wonderfully by Alan Cumming. I could have listened to his storytelling all day... so well done.

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  • M. Swope
  • katy, tx United States
  • 04-14-16

Amazing performance!

If you could sum up Macbeth: A Novel in three words, what would they be?

Vivid, tragic, stirring

What did you like best about this story?

The performance is incredible! The range of talent that Mr. Cumming brings to bear on the sheer number and kinds of characters is amazing. His narration brings Scotland to life...

Which character – as performed by Alan Cumming – was your favorite?

Banquo - with his deep, booming voice and his physical presence.

If you could take any character from Macbeth: A Novel out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Macbeth himself. He seems honorable and just overall, but tragically flawed. I'd love to get to know him better.

Any additional comments?

Listening to this *novel* adapted from Shakespeare just about left me in despair - the story is vivid and the tragedy unfolds perfectly. There is such a remarkable and unstoppable descent to the bitter end that you cannot tear yourself away.

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Leave your scepticism at the door

I went into this book weary. I generally don't like "new" approaches to classics but took a chance on Macbeth simply because it was on sale. I feel no need to discuss the plot (you should know the story by now anyways) and simply need to say that I loved it enough that I hope the author does this with other material. Think Game of Thrones with a more meaningful plot and that's what you're getting.

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Not what I expected.

It was boring to me. Just not what I expected . It could have been better.

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  • Joseph
  • Somerset, Kentucky, United States
  • 03-20-16

A Superb way to Enjoy Shakespeare

What did you love best about Macbeth: A Novel?

It was a very palatable way to truly understand Macbeth

Any additional comments?

Shakespeare is not always easy to appreciate. I thoroughly enjoyed this approach.

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Great story

Let me start with this. I have not read or watched Shakespeare's original, or any other version of this story. I have NO idea how it compares.

That being said it was a well written NOVEL. The narrator was AMAZING! I did not want to put it down. I felt emotionally connected to the characters and sad when some died.

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  • MLH
  • Illinois
  • 03-04-16

Something Wicked Good

Intriguing , imaginative and well-crafted.
And the narrator, Alan Cumming, brings it to life. Like Shakespeare? You'll love this. Don't like Shakespeare? You'll love this.