Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

1 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Born Gruadh inghean Bodhe (also spelled Gruoch ingen Boite), Lady Macbeth was the granddaughter of Kenneth III, King of Scots (997-1005). As the author 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 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). Consequently, Gruadh’s father seeks a protector and an alliance for his lineage.

About one year later, Gruadh marries Gilcomgan. Gilcomgan is mormaer or ruler of the Moray region – a region Macbeth covets. In this account, Macbeth 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. King does a fine job of explaining how Gruadh feels about the loss of Gilcomgan and her new marriage.

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

Duncan, however, 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 (son of Duncan) quest for the throne. In essence, history repeats itself. Canmore does to Macbeth what Macbeth did to Duncan. Macbeth’s rule ends in 1057 with his death.

Engaged from the start, I enjoyed this story immensely. The author is a wonderful storyteller. If there are weaknesses in the story, it’s the occasional narrative that reads too much like a research summary and the rushed ending. The last part, which covers from 1050 to shortly after Macbeth’s death isn’t as complete as the rest of the story. Nonetheless, Lady Macbeth deserves high marks and I await the author’s next book with bated breath. Rating: Excellent.