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Something Like a Review : Macbeth by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson

When I first heard about the novelization of Macbeth by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson, I was excited. I have enjoyed Shakespeare for a long time, and of all the plays of his that I’ve read and seen performed, Hamlet and Macbeth are my favorites. Macbeth was the first play that gave me chills and struck a deep chord in the twisted part of my brain that creates scary things. I couldn’t wait until the day this audiobook was released on audible.com.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was more enthralled by this story than any other audiobook I’ve listened to. Where I normally lose the thread of the story occasionally, I never had a moment where I had to rewind the story because my mind had wandered. Not once.

I could write this review in one sentence: “If Shakespeare had been a novelist instead of a playwright, this is the Macbeth he would have written.”

But far be it for me to be brief when there’s so much that can be said about this story. Hartley and Hewson’s telling of the iconic story of the Scottish thane is a loving re-imagining of the story that is both an honor and homage to the original text. Where the original play leaves much to the imagination and interpretation of the producers and performers, the authors have filled in the gaps. Instead of a villainous portrayal of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the main characters have been humanized and, somehow, made more terrifying for their development. Macbeth and Skena*are now well-rounded characters whose descent into regicide, murder and betrayal becomes…understandable and relatable. Their madness and treachery aren’t as “safe” as in the play because the listener can follow their good intentions and motives as they wind their way through the dark side of human nature and emerge as a twisted and warped means-to-an-end.

The story is lyrical, and not only because of the voice talents of the narrator, Alan Cummings, and the enchantment his amazing accent invokes. Listening to this story, it’s clear how much attention was devoted to the way it sounds. Even the casual listener will be able to tell that this story was written to be read aloud, much like the original text which inspired it. That’s not to say that it’s all pretty words. Macbeth lives up to its bloody reputation – there are vivid battles, grisly, visceral descriptions and striking descriptions of the Scottish landscape that transport the listener into Macbeth’s world.

Personally, I’m hoping that this will be released as a print version. I loved the audiobook, and I will definitely listen to it again, but this one is deserving of a spot in my library.

*closest approximation to the spoken name used in the audiobook. Since there’s not a text version of the story yet, the spelling could vary.

  1. July 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it. Macbeth was a fun project to write and I had the privilege of being in the studio when Alan started the narration – something I’ll never forget. We hope to have news of a print edition soon

  2. July 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    It’s a fantastic work. I loved it and I’ve recommended it to several friends already. I can imagine how awesome listening to the narration was live…Alan Cummings was as captivating as the story. Thanks for writing it! I hope it comes to print soon! I would love to get a copy!

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