Third Witch by Jackie French

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Angus and Robertson, 2017. ISBN 9780732298531
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Themes: Macbeth; Shakespeare; Power and ambition; Royalty. Shakespeare's Macbeth is an incredibly powerful story of the insidious impact of uncontrolled ambition, drawing the main characters into a maelstrom of madness with their moral compasses twisting in response to the choices they have made; choices based on the 'counsel' of witches. Jackie French has woven a tale into this Shakespearean drama, with her central protagonist, Annie Grasseyes, acting as the Third Witch. This simple village girl now works as Lady's maid and companion to Lady Macbeth and at the behest of her employer acts as the prophetic 'Third Witch' in response to the powerful woman's desire to spur the ambition of her husband. The slow downward twisting of the central characters of the Macbeth story are then revealed as the words spoken play out in their lives. The witches are portrayed as 'actors' and speakers of unwittingly persuasive words, rather than as supernatural participants who can influence the future.
Jackie French has very cleverly created a back story and context for the original dramatic text setting (while being very conscious of its lack of historical veracity due to the influence of James I's views on the dramatist's work). The original Shakespearean words are woven into the novel with recognisable phrases scattered appropriately through the plot. There is also a romantic tangle for Annie. Through this all, the original text is honoured and the book would be a fantastic read for students who struggle with the complexity of the Shakespearean language but want to understand this critical text. (Although they should always read the original text first!) Jackie French adds notes at the end of the text explaining several recipes and commenting on some of the social complexities and motivations of the characters, as well as her own motivations and love of Macbeth.
A very powerful book. Highly recommended for age 14+ (Some understanding of Macbeth would add appreciation to the reading of this novelisation.)
Carolyn Hull