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Macbeth: A Novel Audiobook

Macbeth: A Novel

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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.

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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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  •  
    Hugh 03-23-16
    Hugh 03-23-16 Member Since 2015
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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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail 03-23-16
    Gail 03-23-16
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    "Not what I expected."

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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Somerset, Kentucky, United States 03-20-16
    Joseph Somerset, Kentucky, United States 03-20-16 Member Since 2011

    Tell us about yourself! Lifelong reader and passionate pursuer of knowledge. I love Audible because I never have to stop reading.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charlene Kidwell Visalia, CA United States 03-17-16
    Charlene Kidwell Visalia, CA United States 03-17-16
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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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MLH Illinois 03-04-16
    MLH Illinois 03-04-16 Member Since 2014
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    47
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brooklynown 02-22-16
    Brooklynown 02-22-16 Member Since 2016
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    "Grim to boredom"

    To its credit, I must say it is interesting in what it adds to the play, but it is written with such a heavy hand as to become tedious. The author is monotonous in his portrayal of grim events—there is nothing else in the story and soon all grinlmness becomes tedious and insignificant (there is a reason why the play is short and the authors didn't catch it.) It doesn't have the glaring logical/plot holes of their adaptation of Hamlet, but fails in the most important and most interesting task it set out to accomplish: the portrayal of a good man turning into an evil monster. The authors gave it too much for granted and, after building Macbeth into a good and honest men, just make him slip with a couple of strokes into bad, not making much sense along the way. That part should have been the most important and most interesting of the story, but instead is given mostly for granted and not given the development it needed.
    Alan Cumming was excellent in his reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. K. Hankison 01-25-16 Member Since 2014
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    "An interesting version with a great narrator"
    What other book might you compare Macbeth: A Novel to and why?

    The other novel by Hartley and Hewson, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. I actually liked Hamlet better because I felt the authors had a more unique approach to that story.


    Any additional comments?

    It is a very interesting version of a familiar story. The authors develop the plot lines and characters in order to better understand the characters and their actions. Some interesting minor characters are brought to the forefront of the story as well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brendan Kharkiv 01-10-16
    Brendan Kharkiv 01-10-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Excellent narration and another great novelization of one of Shakespeare's best!"

    After listening to Richard Armitage's excellent narration of David Hewson and A.J. Hartley's "Hamlet", I was eager to give "Macbeth" a go. Alan Cumming isn't quite the narrator that Armitage is, but who is? As for the story itself, Hewson and Hartley have turned in another excellent novelization of one of Shakespeare's classic plays. Naturally, when turning a 2-3 hour play into novel form, some of Shakespeare's lines have to be more fully fleshed out, but none of that fleshing out feels awkward in the least.

    If you're a Shakespeare fan, or just love a good story, "Macbeth" shouldn't be missed!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hilary 12-07-15
    Hilary 12-07-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Great retelling, but the real star was the narrator"

    Macbeth was always one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and I am a huge fan of Alan Cumming. The combination was irresistible. I loved being able to get into the characters' heads the way only a novel allows, and the combination of real history of the infamous play, as well as a few original details, was simply delightful. That being said, the best part of the whole experience was Alan's narration. From the first line to the last, Alan delivered a performance that at once was engaging and innovative, easily separating each character into a unique entity, and his natural Scottish brogue only served to further the feeling of being there as it happened.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 11-09-15
    Rachel Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 11-09-15 Member Since 2012

    Lover of books and fictions reads.

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    "We know more about lady Macbeth"
    What did you love best about Macbeth: A Novel?

    The back story given to a lot of the side characters, especiall Macbeth and the witches!


    What did you like best about this story?

    There are multiple points of view


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The realisation that the youngest witch may be the most powerful and strange one.


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

    Lady Macbeth, she needs a sympathetic ear and sensible advice most of all.


    Any additional comments?

    For those who love Shakespeare's work, especially Macbeth, this is a great addition!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • 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.

    13 of 13 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.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    4/15/14
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    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.

    18 of 19 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!

    3 of 3 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.

    3 of 3 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.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs. K. Sowden
    UK
    1/30/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent story well read"

    Wonderful story expanding the tragic tale of Macbeth and his wife. Alan Cummings read it very well.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • 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.

    8 of 10 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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • VAL G.
    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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