Tuesday, January 8, 2013

“And still you'll hesitate to tell him, won't you? Why? Because you're a woman? Is your destiny such a small thing then? To keep your legs open and your mouth shut?” Macbeth: A Novel - A.J Hartley and David Hewson

Well good morning! I guess you may have thought that I'd forgotten all about you, but I hadn't. I actually just got back from holiday. And lucky for me, I took a few books and audiobooks to pass some of my spare time. 

So, Macbeth: A Novel has been on my to-read pile for a very long time. And I did it, I finally got around to reading it. 
This is pretty much the same story as Shakespeare's Macbeth, and it pays homage to his genius, whilst also using historical facts and records to cushion out the story. The writers (one of which is a professor of Shakespeare) unashamedly twist and change things - using their own creativity to make the story eerie and uncomfortable; and uncomfortable it most certainly is. 

It follows the same story - pretty much. Macbeth is a warrior, fighting for Duncan, the King. He and Skener Macbeth (Lady Macbeth has a name!) then decide that Macbeth is pretty much deserving of his crown, and so when King Duncan is invited to his castle for a feast... they both murder him, this in turn destroys both their relationship and their consciences. Macbeth falls to to paranoia, becoming dependent on predictions made by three witches... one an old crone, another a giant woman, and the third, a woman in a young girl's body.

This all culminates to the same ends as they do in Shakespeare's Macbeth, except we have detailed prose rather than actors doing all the work!

The Audiobook
Alan Cumming is the narrator of this novel and a fine one he is. He manages to differentiate between all the different characters flawlessly, and his female voices aren't too odd either - which is a nice change when it comes to male narrators. I think the nicest touch was that they actually had a Scot narrate the story, giving a touch of believability that is needed in the narration of a story such as this one. 

The production was nicely done as well, and we even get to hear the voices of the authors both at the beginning and at the end of the story giving details in to the creative process that went in to writing Macbeth: A Novel.

The Story
The prose is full of Scotland. That may sound silly but it's true. Sprawling, vicious and beautiful landscapes that directly impose themselves upon the characters. There is also a lot of pathetic fallacy, personification and an abundance of gothic conventions that just make this story - quite simply - beautifully written.

Hartley and Hewson do a pretty brilliant job of characterising Skener and Macbeth in such a way that as a reader you do really like them, and empathise the silly mistakes they make. Macbeth's paranoia becomes uncomfortable, not because we think him mad, but because his madness is a result from his fall from grace. Hartley and Hewson seduce us in the first few scenes, Macbeth and Skener having lovely characters and morals - and then we see the temptation, the action, the fall, and the decline. It is the love that Macbeth and Skener have for one another that when it self-destructs it is pitiful. 

There is all sorts in this book. There's murder, misogyny, feminism, sex, violence, paedophilia, rape, infanticide, crime, conspiracy, war, regicide, magic, mystery and romance - and all are developed and explored in a way that can really make the reader uncomfortable - but also, at times, was able to give respite to audiences.

The narrative is intense, as are the characters, and so for me, I really had to take short breaks as I could feel myself becoming a little overwhelmed. 

There were times that I could feel myself rolling my eyes and saying to myself 'this is a book for men' - haha, sexist... I know. I just found that a lot of the fight scenes were just needlessly long, and more for an audience who enjoyed the movie 300, rather than Shakespeare enthusiasts. 

So... as a Shakespeare enthusiast am I enraged at the bastardisation of his Scottish play? No, not at all in fact. I think this is an excellent resource for those who just cannot connect with the English of the play but want to be able to enjoy the story. It's also great for those who do not go to theatre, and enjoy prose instead. 

So why do I only give it three stars? Well, it's just because it felt... so... long, and at times I felt like I was reading it because I had to, not because I wanted to. And maybe, in a more sexist vein, I found it... very... masculine, and I couldn't connect with the female characters. But, I will say this, I will happily read any future novelisations of Shakespeare's plays. I'd love to read what they do with them.

But anywho - that's just me. If you liked it, or are planning on listening to it any time soon - then please, hit me a line and tell me off if I just didn't get it! 

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I have the "this is a book for men" feeling frequently. Perhaps we are just far too alert to the presentation of females in literature?! haha. I *love* Macbeth though, so shall definitely see if this book crops up on a Kindle deal somewhere... (it is available in non-audio form I hope?!)x

  2. Females in literature - most contemporary writing is quite frustrating when it comes to representing the female in literature. As in most entertainment industries (video games, films, books, magazines etc etc), women are usually in two categories. You know what those categories are lol, I'm not going to go on about it!

    But yes, you should find a Kindle edition! I can't wait to hear what you have to say.
    I found it so intense that I had to turn to something completely light and bizarre to take my mind off it. I turned to Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy read by Stephen Fry. That certainly did the trick.


Please leave a message after the tone!


Orisi's Blah Blah Blah © 2013 | Powered by Blogger | Blogger Template by DesignCart.org
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...