Susan Fraser King
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". . . romantic and suspenseful tale . . ."
Susan Fraser King’s historical novel, Lady Macbeth, is radically different from our familiar account written by Shakespeare. During her post-graduate medieval studies, King came upon new scholarly evidence that led her to write the story of a braver and more compassionate character. This romantic and suspenseful tale is woven around documented events in Celtic Scotland during the 11th century.
During this period in history, many fight and die for the hand of temperamental and willful Grudha (Lady Macbeth). Hers is the direct blood line from Celtic kings and, “a man could claim the throne of Scotland by marrying her.” After unsuccessful attempts by Saxons, Scots and Vikings to abduct Grudha, her father marries her off to an older Lord Gilcomgan for protection. Her father’s design is that ultimately she will marry Macbeth, and they will unite Scotland as king and queen, although Macbeth is already wed to another woman.
Warring lords battle, kings and their descendants are murdered and boundaries shift. As explained by Grudha, “Retaliation is a dark and constant thread in the Celtic weave.” Grudha’s father and brother are murdered, and her husband is murdered by Macbeth, who is now widowed and free to marry. Grudha is with child when Macbeth forces her into marriage. On the way to the crown, more carnage continues. Strange alliances develop among Scots, Saxons and Vikings. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth reign for 17 years.
This is also a tender story about Grudha, whose bitterness against Macbeth dissolves into affection, as well as her sadness over her inability to provide an heir. But as the daughter of women warriors, she takes up “swords and bow” and guides an army to protect Macbeth from an ambush. She becomes skilled at managing hawks, translates visions and practices magic.
Paramount to this drama is King’s ability to integrate extensive historical details. We learn Celtic customs, get a vivid sense for life in the cold fortresses, the desperate search for food during winter, the power of herbal medicines and the use of magic and costumes.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla