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Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

Postby diamondlil » Tue August 26th, 2008, 10:18 am

I am granddaughter to a king and daughter to a prince, a wife twice over, a queen as well. I have fought with sword and bow, and
struggled fierce to bear my babes into this world. I have loved deeply and hated deeply, too.


Lady Gruadh, called Rue, is the last female descendent of Scotland’s most royal line. Married to a powerful northern lord, she is widowed while still carrying his child and forced to marry her husband’s murderer: a rising war-lord named Macbeth. Encountering danger from Vikings, Saxons, and treacherous Scottish lords, Rue begins to respect the man she once despised–and then realizes that Macbeth’s complex ambitions extend beyond the borders of the vast northern region. Among the powerful warlords and their steel-games, only Macbeth can unite Scotland–and his wife’s royal blood is the key to his ultimate success.

Determined to protect her small son and a proud legacy of warrior kings and strong women, Rue invokes the ancient wisdom and secret practices of her female ancestors as she strives to hold her own in a warrior society. Finally, side by side as the last Celtic king and queen of Scotland, she and Macbeth must face the gathering storm brought on by their combined destiny.

From towering crags to misted moors and formidable fortresses, Lady Macbeth transports readers to the heart of eleventh-century Scotland, painting a bold, vivid portrait of a woman much maligned by history.



For most people, the main thing that would be associated with the name Lady Macbeth are the following words from Shakespeare:

Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, andafeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call ourpow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?


If you pick up this book expecting to see anything like this, you are bound to be disappointed, but if you are interested in finding out some of the historical background to this particular character then this could be the book for you.

Lady Gruad is born into the Royal family of Scotland making her a very desirable marriage match due to her pure bloodlines. After being kidnapped twice, once when she is very nearly of marriagable age, her father decides that it is time to marry her off, and she is married to Gilcomgan of Moray against her wishes. A relatively short time after, Rue is heavily pregnant when she is widowed. Her husband has been killed by Macbeth in one of the many power struggles that dominated the Scottish political scene in the late 11th century, and particularly in revenge for the murder of Macbeth's father by Gilcomgan. Macbeth himself is descended from King Duncan, and so when he forces Rue to marry him immediately following her first husband's death (all spoils to the victor!) he bolsters his own claim to the throne of Scotland even though his grandfather the King has named another as his successor in a break from the traditional way that the kings of Scotland have been chosen.

By marrying Rue, Macbeth becomes Mormaer of Moray, a powerful and rich lord, but it is through his efforts to be a fair and generous ruler to his people that he gains their loyalty. For a long time he is prepared to not make any challenges to the throne, but when his life and those of his young family are threatened things change, and Macbeth becomes King of Scotland and Rue his queen.

There are many details of life in Scotland in 11th century within the book: the struggle for peace with both the Vikings and the English, the struggle between the Church in Rome and the Celtic church as well as weaving in many superstitions, omens and spells.

It was interesting to read the life of a Queen who involved herself in her husband's life to such an extent as Rue did, including in policy making, and it is inferred within the novel that the two came to value and respect each other, and yes perhaps love each other. There were however still plenty of examples where she was left behind and it is in those times that we begin to see how much Rue is affected by the portents and omens that she can see, and how it effects the decisions that she makes for the future, and in particular how determined she becomes to protect the old ways of life.

Whilst I enjoyed this book, it didn't quite make it to the status of a great read for me. I never felt truly immersed in the book. Part of the reason for this may be the first person narrative, but I don't think that it was the only factor. For much of the time I was outside of the book. In my favourite HF novels, I would be there with the characters, wrapped in furs trying to keep warm in the middle of a harsh Scottish winter, but with this book I was still firmly in the 21st century looking back through a window of time.

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Kailana
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Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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Postby Kailana » Tue August 26th, 2008, 10:20 am

I think I own this book.... I know I wanted it, but I can't remember if I got it or not! Man, I must be REALLY tired... Now I am going to have to look when I get home!

Have you seen the manga series that is retelling of Shakespeare's plays? There is Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. I want to try them but haven't been brave enough yet.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Tue August 26th, 2008, 3:22 pm

I had similar reactions to the book as Diamondlil had. It was good, but it didn't suck me in either. I'm going to read Dunnett's King Hereafter later this year and see how her take on Macbeth stacks up. My review,

Lady Gruadh (Rue) is descended from one of two branches of the ancient royal line of Celtic Kings. First married against her wishes to Gilcomgan of Moray, her husband is killed in battle with Macbeth, and the pregnant Rue is married to Macbeth, Rue's pure bloodline giving him a stronger claim to the throne of Scotland. Thus begins an uneasy truce between the two as they eventually make the marriage work and Macbeth schemes to take the reign of Scotland from Duncan. Amidst the plots and treacheries of 11C Scotland, the author also works in plentiful details of Celtic myths and lifestyle as she tells Rue's story in the first person POV.

While I did enjoy this book, along with picking up some knowledge of Scottish history and the "real" Macbeth, I found this book to be slow paced at times with long periods of inaction and detailed descriptions of every day life. Although I typically don't mind a slower paced book as long as the author can fully immerse me into another century, in this case I felt like I was on the outside looking in. Rue's tale came off to this reader as a bit cold and aloof. I never felt I was a part of the story - just an interested bystander, and that is not where I want to be in a book. I also felt it too short at just over 300 pages, perhaps the characters would be been stronger and had more life if they had been fleshed out more, but that could have been the publisher's decision and not the author. We'll never know.

An entertaining and educational read about the "real" Macbeth instead of Shakespeare's version, but it's not a book I'm willing to give a five star rating to, nor one I will read more than once. If you're not sure, get it from the library first and then if you love it, buy it. Side note, there is an extensive list of characters with their full names and titles (with pronunciation) along with a glossary at the back of the book. I really wish publishers would either put these at the front of the book or tell the reader it's there in the back for my reference. 4/5 stars.

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JaneConsumer
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Postby JaneConsumer » Fri September 5th, 2008, 8:21 pm

My earlier review, reposted here:

Susan Fraser King recreates the life of Gruadh inghean Bodhe, who became Queen of Scots and Lady Macbeth. As she explains in the historical note, "So little is known of Macbeth's queen that historians have drawn conclusions based on the events and circumstances around her." Drawing such conclusions as King does, within the context of a fictional story, works well.

The story of Gruadh opens with two kidnappings and rescues - the later event taking place when Gruadh is almost of marrying age (about 14). "After the second abduction," Gruadh explains, "[M]y father assured me that I need not fear any further attempts. As soon he could arrange it, I would be married off to a man of his choosing, for he sought both a protector for me and an unbreakable alliance for our Fife lineage."

At about the age of 15, Gruadh marries Gilcomgan of Moray, mormaer or ruler of the Moray region. Macbeth, who lost the opportunity for the title in a dispute over the manner of his father's death, coveted Moray.

In this fictional account, he attacks and traps Gilcomgan in 1032 "in a burning tower with fifty men at Burghead Sands." He then marries Gruadh and becomes mormaer of Moray.

At this point, the story largely becomes Macbeth's. While Gruadh struggles with her almost equal desires to be a warrior queen and a mother, Macbeth serves as a general to King Duncan.

But Duncan was an inept ruler. By 1040, Macbeth garnered enough power to challenge and fatally wound the king.

The story then skips ahead to 1050, the year Macbeth went on a pilgrimage to Rome. On his return, rumors abound concerning Malcolm Canmore's quest for the throne. Canmore was the son of Duncan.

In essence, history repeats itself. Canmore does to Macbeth what Macbeth did to Duncan. Macbeth's rule ends in 1057 with his death.

I enjoyed Lady Macbeth immensely. The author's writing style is agreeable; her storytelling ability adept. If there are any weaknesses, it's the occasional narrative that reads too much like a research summary. But that's a small flaw, easily forgiven. In truth, I can hardly believe this is the author's first book. I await the next with bated breath.

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Fri September 5th, 2008, 10:04 pm

This was the authors first book under this pen name. She does write historical romance under another name, which escapes me at the moment!
My Blog - Reading Adventures

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton

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Spitfire
Reader
Location: Canada

Postby Spitfire » Fri September 5th, 2008, 10:29 pm

In highschool we had to read MacBeth, and it was by far my most favourite of all Shakespeare's work. I read King Hereafter last year, I found the story drug in quite a few places, but the characters were real and the picture words were quite beautiful in this book so I would definitely recommend it. I don't feel up to tackling another Macbeth story for a while yet, I will decide about reading King's novel if the reviews tip in her favour.
Only the pure of heart can make good soup. - Beethoven

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Thu April 9th, 2009, 10:58 am

There is an interview with the author of this book over at Historical Novel Review if anyone is interested.
My Blog - Reading Adventures



All things Historical Fiction - Historical Tapestry





There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.



Edith Wharton

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Postby Margaret » Thu April 9th, 2009, 4:03 pm

Lady Macbeth is a short novel, quite different from King Hereafter. Whereas KH explores an interesting theory of Dorothy Dunnett's that Macbeth of Moray and Thorfinn of Orkney were actually the same person, LM sticks to the standard interpretation and portrays them as two different characters. I agree with others here that Lady Macbeth is worth reading for a solid introduction to the history behind the Macbeth story, but is not an outstanding novel from the storytelling perspective. Dunnett's rather long novel is brilliant in places (her Lady Macbeth is truly memorable), but is incredibly detailed with a lot of complicated political maneuvering that can be eye-glazing for many readers. My review of Lady Macbeth is at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Lady-Macbeth.html.
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