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King Hereafter

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  1,268 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Back in print by popular demand--"A stunning revelation of the historical Macbeth, harsh and brutal and eloquent." --Washington Post Book World.
With thesame meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past. In KingHereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wi
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Paperback
Published April 7th 1983 by Hamlyn (first published 1982)
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Sandra
Nope - 5 stars. The longer I sit with it, the better it gets.

I started reading this book with a Dunnett group on Yahoo, but shortly got frustrated because it went so slow and there was virtually no discussion as many (including me) were first time readers and they're Nazis about spoilers. Personally, I don't mind spoilers and sometimes even seek them out. 'Spoilers' implies that all there is to a book is the plot and what happens, and if I know that then the whole book is spoiled. Since this is
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Jean Gobel
I had never read Shakespeare's Macbeth, and really didn't know the story, in fact I thought he was a fictitious character, so this was new territory for me. The book starts with so many Viking names and places I felt lost after a chapter or two. But, I persevered, and must say it was a very satisfying book. Dorothy Dunnett at her best.

Reared from the age of 5 by a foster-father in the Orkneys, Thorfinn, the Earl of Orkney lives the hard but adventurous life in the north of early Scotland, surro
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Katherine
This is a tough book to rate, it is in turns so dense as to be almost incomprehensible (unless you're a historian) and then utterly brilliant. There were long stretches that I almost abandoned the book and then times when I couldn't put it down and read long into the night. So while I have to say the writing is more than a bit uneven in my opinion, it's still Dunnett--and you close the book knowing that you missed many of the subtleties and nuances on a first reading.

I must say that Dunnett's c
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Jane
Dunnett is not for me personally, though I appreciated her occasional flashes of brilliance. Most of this novel was dense, turgid and impenetrable: absolutely unreadable. I wanted exposure to her conception of the 'real' Macbeth, since Shakespeare really maligned the guy. I forced myself to plod through this slower-than-molasses book. The different family trees helped, but as a GR Friend mentioned to me, judicious footnoting would not have gone amiss.
Larou
If George Mackay Brown’s Vinland was the kind of historical novel that uses history to make a statement about the present, then King Hereafter is the kind that attempts to immerse its readers as fully as possible in the past, not just by describing historical events but by trying to recreate the mindset of their chosen period, by making their readers think, feel and see the way their characters did, ideally without having a present point of view intrude on the scene at all. Nobody (at least nobo ...more
Jennifer
This is perhaps my favorite book of all time. First, the historical detail is incredible (although there are some who fault her for fusing two real leaders). In addition, the plot is tightly woven so that any loose strings are eventually gathered in the end, which is important to me. I hate it when authors bring in people or events and then never refer to them again.
I especially love her characterization. Thorfinn/Macbeth has his flaws, and we always see how thoughtful he is about the decisio
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Betsy
Oct 26, 2011 Betsy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: Jinny
Shelves: fiction, historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carolyn Haley
King Hereafter


This book qualifies as Advanced Reading. Although each sentence is a work of art, and the construction of the novel is masterful, it’s not a tale you just gallop through. Rather, it must be read like some poetry, by immersing yourself into the words and images and allowing them to create an experience that engages your mind on more than one level. For 720 densely packed pages in the oversize paperback edition.

There’s also an enormous cast of characters who move all over northern an
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Bruce
This is a monumental historical novel about Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney, who Dunnett, after much research, became convinced was identical to the Macbeth of Shakespeare’s play (most historians apparently believe that these two contemporaneous early 11th century rulers were cousins). Dunnett’s work is the story of Thorfinn’s progress from a ruler of part of the Orkney Islands, just north of Scotland, to a position of king of all Scotland (Alba), and how he then lost the kingship.

The story itself is
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Sarah
I have now read this book 3+ times, and I agree with Dorothy Dunnett that this is her master work. It is a difficult book to tackle. Like most of Dunnett's characters, you don't learn much directly about what her main characters are thinking. After an incredible amount of research, Dunnett became convinced that Thorfinn, Earl of Orkney and Caithness (a documented, real person), and MacBeth, King of Alba (another documented, real person), were, in fact, the same person. This book is about how Tho ...more
Nicole
I just finished reading this for the first time, and I'm still recovering. I'm in a lot of wonderful Dunnett-style pain at the moment.

I've read Dunnett before, having devoured The Lymond Chronicles around this time last year, so I had an idea of what to expect. I knew to prepare myself to feeling confused and in over my head, and to brace myself for meticulous historical detail that I no doubt would struggle to follow. And I'm glad I did because a lot of the importance of the history was lost on
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Mike

‘King Hereafter’ by Dorothy Dunnett
Who was the real Macbeth, and did he visit Chester in England?
According to the research by historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett, he was the 11th Century Thorfinn Sigurdason, Earl of Caithness & Orkney and lived in the times of King Canute, Earl Leofric of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva.
His father was disputed, so he was named after his mother Beatha, hence the name Macbeth. His enemy was Rognvald.
This fascinating story (published by Arrow Books) is love s
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Sandi
A brilliant book. Hard to get into at first, even with being familiar with Dorothy's elliptical style, partly due to the unfamiliar 11C period. But well-worth the effort. My choice as my Desert Island Book (as I could not choose another Dunnett book without wanting the rest of the series as well).
Sallie
A long but fascinating story about Macbeth which still lingers in my mind at the oddest moments. Haunting story.
Mike Hampson
Even though I got an off-taste from the little bit of Dunnett I've read (which is only a matter of pages), Macbeth is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, so I thought I'd give this one a chance. The story is really built around the idea that the actual Scottish king Macbeth and a half-Viking Earl of Orkney named Thorfinn were the same person; there's no real connection to the play, except for depictions of a few events that become part of the myth around Macbeth which inspired Shakespeare, like ...more
Starling
This book was written in 1981. Dorothy Dunnett was a favorite author, and I reread this book and her Lymond Chronicles many times, but for some reason never read either of her other two series. I never owned copies of these books because they were easy to find at any library, until, of course they wore out and were discarded. At that point all of the author's books were out of print. I went on to other authors and other books.

I located an inexpensive used copy of the book through Amazon. And I h
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Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in March 1999.

Dorothy Dunnett's novel of Scotland in the Dark Ages concerns the historical Macbeth - or does it? She certainly knows more about the situation in eleventh century Scotland than Shakespeare did (Macbeth ruled just before the Norman conquest of England), but her plot relies on an identification between two historical characters. Macbeth, she assumes, was in fact the baptismal name of the Viking Earl of Orkney, Thorfinn II.In some ways, this works
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Anne
I actually read all Dorothy Dunnett's historical fiction this fall, rereading in the case of the Lymond series, but this is the only stand alone book. It's definitely my sort of thing. There's a part where it dissolves into a thousand similar names and places, and when the going gets tough, the characters get cryptic, but I just read on until the story revealed what was bothering them.

The Lymond books put romantic adventurous characters in a wonderful and vivid historical background, but in the
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Kathy
I don't give too many book 5 stars, but this one deserves every one of them. I first read King Hereafter years ago, when it was originally published. Recently, when adventures in genealogy got me interested in this era, I remember this book and got my hands on a new copy (as I'd gotten rid of my original all those years ago).

This is historical fiction at its best. The story and characters are great, and the research behind it is flawless. Too many times these days, publishers pass off poorly wri
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Erin
Best book I ever read. In fact, I read it 10 times. I read it the first time so quickly that I actually went back to page one when I finished it and read it straight through. And then did it again. The third time, with a dictionary in my hand. The human depth in this complex historical novel is so intense it left me weeping at the end. I feel I know these people. I mourn for them and I celebrate with them. Dorothy Dunnett is simply an extraordinary writer. I've read a dozen of her other books, e ...more
Cerisaye
Dorothy Dunnett is my favourite writer of all time. I have read her historical novels several times over since first discovering them as a student (Modern History) in the mid 70s. This one would be my Desert Island choice if forced to pick a single volume, because I could never choose between Dunnett's Lymond and Niccolo (also I would HAVE to have the entirety of both) series.

A masterpiece of research, a book that needs to be read more than once or twice to take it all in. The writing is magnif
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Jaynee Russell-Clarke
A rich and deeply satisfying evocation of characters, time and place which had been reduced to almost cartoon status after Shakespeare. DD does not need to compete with Shakespeare (who had his own historical rules to follow), and if this wasn't Macbeth's true story, it should have been.

One of those books I look forward to re-reading every few years.
Michelle
I really had high hopes for this because it is such an interesting period of history that I don't know much about. However, the author never really got me attached to any of the characters, and the details with all the boats and sailing as well as the confusing way characters have 2-3-4 different names made it a chore just to read a page.
Shankar Rajesh
This is a tome and a complex book to read. Gripping saga that leaves you exhausted by the time you finish it. This is the story of Thorfinn, famously known as Macbeth and is set in a pagan Scotland in the 11th century. This is the story of a boy who is dissatisfied with his small share of kingdom, the Orkney Islands, and seizes an empire with the help of his sharp and shrewd wife Groa, who he wins as spoils of a battle.

Dorothy Dunnett apparently read over 500 books to write this brilliant novel
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Paul
A more believable story of Macbeth, who was King of Scotland during it's most peaceful and prosperous years, than that suggested by Shakespeare who cruelly maligned the democratically elected Scots monarch in order to curry favour with the nepotistic rulers of England who inherited their regal power. Brilliant!
Beth Hocking
If you're thinking of reading this book but have limited experience with the time period in question, here's what you need to do. First take a short course on 11th century Scotland or the whole British Isles if you're feeling ambitious. Find and learn off the entire extended family of king Canute. Get hold of a good map of 11th century Europe and give it a good look over. Optionally learn off the major religious factions of the day and the names of the relevant popes. Then, congratulations, you' ...more
Lucinda Hare
Dorothy Dunnett's best book I think...Thorfinn Macbeth...the real Macbeth...beautifully written, evocative...
I read it a long time ago...the book is worn out...
Rebecca Huston
Best rendition of MacBeth. Ever. Not even Shakespeare gets it this good.
Laura
I took about 6 months to read this book, mainly because I put it down for several months about halfway through. The same thing happened to me with Game of Kings, the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, so I was prepared for the feelings of inadequacy when faced with Dorothy Dunnett's vast knowledge of history, and I wasn't going to give up. I read the ending on a plane back from Iowa, and wound up with smeared mascara under my eyes and a brand new grudge against Wm Shakespeare for turning the n ...more
Terri
This is a difficult review for me to write, as a dedicated fan of Dorothy Dunnett. I will not be writing a synopsis, for any potential reader of this book can certainly read the synopsis written by the publishers, or others written by many other reviewers of this book. I hope that my review of this book does NOT discourage any potential Dunnett reader from reading either the Lymond Chronicles or the House of Niccolo series', both of which I have read several times and am a huge fan.

For me, this
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  • The Dorothy Dunnett Companion: Volume II
  • A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury
  • Within the Fetterlock
  • Treason
  • In a Dark Wood Wandering: A Novel of the Middle Ages
  • The Bruce Trilogy: Steps to the Empty Throne, Path of the Hero King & Price of the King's Peace
  • The Conquest
  • Time and Chance (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #2)
  • The Lion Wakes (Kingdom Series, #1)
  • The Soul Thief (The Life and Times of Corban Loosestrife, #1)
  • Corrag
  • The Seventh Son
  • I Am the Chosen King (The Saxon Series #2)
  • Lady Macbeth
  • The Gallows Curse
  • Island of Ghosts
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Dorothy Dunnett OBE was a Scottish historical novelist. She is best known for her six-part series about Francis Crawford of Lymond, The Lymond Chronicles, which she followed with the eight-part prequel The House of Niccolò. She also wrote a novel about the real Macbeth called King Hereafter (1982), and a series of mystery novels centred around Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter/spy.

Excerpted from
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More about Dorothy Dunnett...
The Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles, #1) Queens' Play (The Lymond Chronicles, #2) The Disorderly Knights (The Lymond Chronicles, #3) Checkmate (The Lymond Chronicles, #6) Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4)

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“You have only to lift your hand,' Thorkel Fostri said. And after a moment, 'What else were you born for?'

'Why not happiness, like other men?" Thorfinn said.

'You have that,' said his foster-father. 'But if you try to trap it, it will change. Why do you resist? It is your right.'

'I resist because it is no use resisting,' Thorfinn said. 'Do you not think that is unfair? I shall be King because I was King; and I shall die because I did die; and did I remember them, I could even tell what are the three ways it might befall me.”
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“He said, 'You have everything there is of me, save a little I gave to my people. Now you hold that as well.'
And last of all, when he had released her and moved to the door, to stand outside where the sky was enclosed with thick hills and dark, heavy forests, he said, because he could not prevent himself, 'When next you stand by the sea, say goodbye for me.”
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