Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Audio Book Review: Enter Three Witches

Another astounding audiobook that completely took me by surprise, Enter Three Witches is the story of Macbeth as seen from the point of view of Lady Mary, 14-year-old ward of Lord and Lady Macbeth, and the daughter of Lord Cawdor, whose fate those familiar with Shakespeare's play will know only too well ("Hail Glams! Hail Cawdor!").

The story is told in beautifully written prose depicting with equal ease the eerie fog-enshrouded, witch-haunted Scottish moorlands and the violent, blood-drenched machinations wrought by insatiable lust for prestige and power. The language is poetic, vivid, and quickly paced, so that the plot moves forward with a seemingly unstoppable momentum, punctuated at intervals by quotes from Shakespeare's play.

The reading by Charlotte Parry is impeccable, with multiple Scottish dialects and intonations clearly delineating her character voicings, while the narrative sections are given in a clear London English. Parry's ability to convey complex emotional states, switch quickly from one dialect to the next, and create a readily identifiable cast of characters is a unique skill in itself, over and above the inherent value of Cooney's excellent writing.

Published by Scholastic for ages eight and up, this is another book I would not have thought any eight-year-old could read, much less understand. Another not essential, a basic understanding of Shakespeare's version of the story is assumed, with much of the main plot being only vaguely explained. But of far more import is how well examined is the psychology of characters both low and of noble birth, of the demands of rank and honor, and the depths of depravity to which some are willing to descend. Enter Three Witches is a fascinating study in human nature as much as a thrilling and suspenseful tale. My only caveat is that the story ends somewhat abruptly, well before I was ready to be done.