Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: Macbeth by AJ Hartley and David Hewson

Title: Macbeth: A Novel
Authors: AJ Hartley and David Hewson
Enjoyment Rating: ***? ****?
Source: Audible
This book would be rated: R for sex and violence

Last summer when we decided to adopt Eli, I went into "retrenchment mode," and dropped my Audible account down from two books per month to one book per month. I told myself that I couldn't buy any extra books until I finally listened to all of the books that had been sitting there in my library but I hadn't gotten around to listening to yet. Macbeth was the last book in the queue.

It wasn't for lack of trying. The first three times I'd tried to listen to it, I got so distracted and sidetracked in the first or second chapter that I just couldn't listen any more. And it's not like I don't already know the story of Macbeth-- I've read it. I've studied it. I've taught it, for heck's sake. But for some reason, the book wasn't penetrating. I asked other people who had read it, and they said they enjoyed it and had no problem getting into the story. And it wasn't the narrator either-- Alan Cumming is one of the best narrators around. Finally, I decided to give it one more go. I told myself that I couldn't get lost in the story-- I know the story like the back of my hand.

Finally, after the long witch scene and the even longer battle scene, I had a breakthrough-- this was Macbeth at quarter speed, fleshed out, with a lot more detail. And it started to be beautiful. Eventually, I really enjoyed the story-- especially the humanizing of Lady Macbeth (who harbors a huge grudge against Duncan-- who is an evil king-- because Duncan ordered Macbeth to move to a new castle during the end of her pregnancy, which resulted in a disastrous labor, a dead baby, and no possibility of any more children).

While most of the story was enjoyable, I'm still not a fan of the huge battle scenes, and while the opening of the book was faithful to the storyline of the play, maybe it's a boring way to start a novel and a play. But I'm glad I stuck with it-- and I'll never look at the play the same way again.

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