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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
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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.
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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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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Beverly on 07-10-11

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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78 of 80 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jennifer on 11-12-11

My first Shakespeare (but not my last)

I came to this novel differently than many people probably have - I have never read or watched Shakespeare's plays. I have only the slightest general cultural knowledge of things like MacBeth and Romeo & Juliet, etc. My hope was that this novel would lead me to take on Shakespeare - and it has! The book was dark, of course, and a tragedy (I think even I knew that much) but it also led me through the path of MacBeth and Lady MacBeth from idealistic youth to their tortured endings in an understandable way. The narrator was AMAZING as others have stated, and really made each character come to life for me! I look forward to reading the actual play MacBeth (probably the Spark Notes "no fear Shakespeare version, I'm a wimp) to see the differences and similarities. So really, any novel that leads a regular working-class person to want to read Shakespeare has to be a good one, right?

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60 of 62 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Russ on 07-09-12


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.

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Joseph on 09-26-11

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.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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