Lady Macbeth, Susan Fraser King
I enjoy seeing novels that are based on the history that Shakespeare used to write his plays and this one was certainly enticing enough. Who wouldn't want to read more about Macbeth and his horrible queen? This story certainly goes behind the scenes of that notorious couple but in King's novel Lady Macbeth is no monster, only a woman of her times who needed to be a bit tough to survive. For the first time we are given a name for Macbeth's queen: Gruadh inghean Bodhe mac Cineadh mhic Dubh or Grudah (Rue) daughter of Bodhe son of Kenneth son of Duff. She has the blood of the Scottish kings running through her veins which makes her essential to those that want the Scottish crown; it also makes her a target for those that want to keep others from the throne. We watch Rue grow from a child to a strong and honorable woman throughout the story, dealing with many different struggles. Macbeth is actually her second husband in the novel and here he is a wonderful and strong leader, albeit with higher ambitions. It is intriguing to see behind the legends Shakespeare made to get at the truth and the bits and pieces of history that helped form his basis for the play. We see some of what we are familiar with from the play here in names of people and places and even some events, though spellings may be different or circumstances may have been altered.
We really see a lot more of these two characters made famous by Shakespeare though their portrayal is quite different. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are shown as much more human, with feelings and emotions, love and honor. Rue is not a horrible, almost evil woman in the novel but a woman with honor and pride in who she is and in her country, a mother who wants to protect her son and his birthright, and a wife who wants her husband to succeed because he would be the best for the job. We really see the pride and honor behind the struggles for the Crown of Scotland. In this telling, there is absolutely nothing underhanded or wrong about the way Macbeth takes the throne - it is actually welcomed by the people of Scotland as he is a very strong and capable ruler.
This was a very interesting novel and it kept me wanting to read in order to find out how everything would tie together at the end but it just wasn't very "exciting" to me, despite all the magic, Viking raids, war, bloodshed, intrigue, and betrayal within its pages. It was just a more historical look at Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. There is nothing bad about the book just nothing very exceptional either. I can't quite put my finger on what was lacking in it for me because I really did enjoy the novel. It has absolutely fantastic details and descriptions of life and society in eleventh century Scotland. King's writing is wonderful and I had no problem envisioning the landscape and events described in the story. History and fiction are blended together beautifully and in a way that is very believable. I would certainly recommend readers pick this one up, especially if you like seeing the "truth" behind some very famous literary figures.