ISBN 10: 0732298539
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
RRP 16.99 AUD
Macbeth has been my favourite Shakespearean play ever since studying it at school and being taken to a very atmospheric production for an excursion. Of course I knew that Shakespeare had totally fibbed about the whole thing but then he wasn’t a chronicler of history, he was a showman and storyteller. Like Jackie French I too got to play the Third Witch as a 15 year old schoolgirl but not in the actual play but a school production of Happy as Larry, which was loosely based on the original. I don’t remember much about it except we were a screaming success (of course!) except it was directed by the divine Mr Herlinger, my English and Ancient History teacher on whom I had a huge crush. But I digress…
Annie Grasseyes’ rise from lowly village girl to friend and confidante of Lady Macbeth forms the basis of this novel. Her involvement with her mistress’ plotting and planning starts out almost innocently but as time goes by Annie is drawn deeper and deeper into a vortex of evil deeds.
With her indisputable skill Jackie weaves the story with threads from Shakespeare’s own memorable phrases and a close knowledge of everyday life in medieval England, combining these with a story of a young girl mesmerised by luxury and power.
The themes of loyalty, love, betrayal, superstition, and power reflect the original but strips it down to what it truly was – an account of greed and treachery.
At times Annie almost becomes unlikeable as she constantly (and naively) supports the wickedness of her Lady, but her uncompromising loyalty is admirable and it extends to her family, resulting in her being torn between these.
This is a beautiful rendering of the original play and will bring the beauty of Shakespeare’s language to a new audience as well as entrancing them with the simplicity with which a person can find they are embroiled in the very worst of circumstances.
Highly recommended for those readers who relish historical fiction whether they be WS lovers or not. Suitable for ten years upwards.