Macbeth: A Novel

  • by A. J. Hartley, David Hewson
  • Narrated by Alan Cumming
  • 9 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.
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.
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.


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


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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Macbeth fully realized.

This Audible offering takes the familiar story and turns it into a fully realized epic, placed in historical and political context. The writing is outstanding, so that I could envision the very landscape and scenery throughout all of the story locations. It is both an action story and a political and psychological thriller. The characters are fleshed out with complexity that prevents black and white "good guys vs bad guys" caracature. By filling in details of the political and cultural scene of 11th century Scotland, the authors allow us to have a better understanding of the motivations of all the characters, particularly why Macbeth decides to kill the king in the first place - going beyond the motivation of raw ambition. Lady Macbeth is much more complex than the ambitious behind-the-scenes manipulator that we are used to - and much more sympathetic. The presentation of the 3 witches is particularly facinating - no "double, double toil and trouble" - but very specific descriptions of their different personalities and their role in setting the action in motion.

A word about the reading by Alan Cumming - Superb! As a Scot, his voice lends welcome authenticity to the narration. He is a master at providing distinctive voices to all of the characters, and I was especially impressed with his ability to provide credible voices to the female characters - typically a difficult task for male readers.

I listened to the entire book in one day - unable to put it down. This is a wonderful piece of drama that should not be missed. I will look for more original titles from Audible if this is the standard of excellence that can be expected.
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- Janice "Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories."

Narrator choice inspired

This wonderful imagining of the tale of Macbeth fleshes out the story line of Shakespeare's play and brings to life even further than Shakespeare implies the love story between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, whom the authors name "Skena," and the love story between Macbeth and Scotland. The scenery is as bleak as ever Scotland in the dark ages can be painted, and yet the players love the land. The theme "the king and the land are one" is maintained from legend to this telling and pathetic fallacy abounds. But as beautiful as the writing is, the choice of Scot Alan Cumming to narrate this novel was nothing short of inspired. Scots are often unintelligible to the American ear, but Cumming is intelligible and completely Scottish at the same time. His narration is charming, romantic, and compelling. The authors have scored high with this imagining of a story found deep in history. I hope their next experiment will be with one of my favorite characters from Shakespeare and history--Richard III.
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- Beverly

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-28-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios