Thursday, December 17, 2009

"look like the innocent flower

but be the serpent under it." this is spoken by lady macbeth, macbeth, act 1 scene 5.
she's a brilliant character, lady macbeth. so twisted and evil and ready to assist her husband in his bloody ambition.

i read macbeth as a teenager as part of english class and it remains one of my favourite shakespeare plays. last week i read lisa klein's latest novel lady macbeth's daughter and it was fantastic, a wonderful companion to shakespeare's scottish play. plus i also love all things scottish, so perhaps i am biased.

the idea is this: that macbeth's wife grelach (whom he married after killing her first husband, to whom she was wed at 12, having her first child - a son, luoch - at age 13) gives birth to a daughter. macbeth is enraged - it turns out he had been told by the wyrd sisters that he would bear many strong sons. the daughter is born with a deformed foot. macbeth orders his man eadulf to leave the baby to the wolves. the babe is rescued by the queen's lady-in-waiting rhuven and she takes it to her sisters. they name her albia - innocence sprung from darkness.

the novel follows albia as she grows into a young woman, far from the zealously ambitious macbeth and his ever-assisting wife. of course their lives become inevitably re-entwined, and the reader meets the other famous characters of macbeth: banquo, duncan, malcolm and macduff. and she has fleshed out the female characters, given them a voice and a role. albia in particular (of course, being the heroine) is smart and strong, flawed but determined and compassionate.
all these characters are given extra story, back-story, and more character. it's wonderful, and so well done. it never feels anything like fan-fiction - klein's storytelling and characterisation is brilliant.

i love that the wyrd sisters are actually friendly and funny people, caring. they fool macbeth because they had been loyal to the previous thane - and because they can. macbeth hears whatever he wants to hear, twists the sisters' words to fit.

best of all, lady macbeth gets some more page-time. she's not simply the willing-assistant-turned crazy-remorse-woman, but she is grelach: wife and mother. she has emotions and thoughts and we get to know her. excellent.

klein has drawn this world so clearly and her characters were so accessible. i am sure that even someone who has not read macbeth will enjoy the book - maybe even more so because they do not know what is to come! i didn't read klein's previous book ophelia (based on shakespeare's hamlet, of course) but will certainly be seeking it out now.

and here are some photographs of scotland, from when i lived there:

here are some creepy woods in crieff, where i lived - about an hour or so from dunsinane, actually!
this is the view from the crieff knock:here is urquhart castle, near inverness (on loch ness):
this is inside of urquhart castle:

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for heading my 'gift giver' in the right direction Kate, can't wait to read it! I'm re-reading 'Cross stitch' at the moment which is also set in Scotland so am theming my reading at the moment it seems.
    Have a great christmas if I don't see you.

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