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King Hereafter

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,931 ratings  ·  219 reviews
In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland. Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue. He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth.
Dunnett depicts Macbeth's transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a su
Paperback, 721 pages
Published September 29th 1998 by Vintage (first published May 12th 1982)
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Jimmy Van Pfauen I'm reading it right now and it is really hard to understand - but very informative too.

I'd say go with this:
- Thorfinn/MacBeth is portrayed as a…more
I'm reading it right now and it is really hard to understand - but very informative too.

I'd say go with this:
- Thorfinn/MacBeth is portrayed as a Jesus like figure. We see his deeds through the eyes of other characters.
- So many things are left to interpretation. Thorfinn seems to be very ironic or laconic. But he seems also have a lot of doubts. And he is rather be a viking than a christian king (a lot of potential there which could've been explored better I'd argue).
- First it's about Orkney, than Alba, than the introduction of the Church in Alba. That's what I gather after 560 pages.
- You can really skip a lot of names and characters if you understand that England is the main enemy because of the uncertainty there and the church's influence in Alba is via England.(less)

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4.25  · 
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 ·  1,931 ratings  ·  219 reviews

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After Victorians Undone I felt in need of a break from Victorians and so thought I might try one of Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels - the only one in the library was King Hereafter, her take on the Macbeth story. This was possibly for the best as it is a free standing novel while the rest form in to series of books and the county catalogue shows that there is not a complete set of any of her series within the whole county.

Anyway mildly hopeful I embarked on board this big fat novel hoping fo
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Having read the Lymond and Niccolo series and being completely captivated by them I was hesitant to embark on this novel about Thorfinn otherwise known as Macbeth. I couldn't see how any other novel by this gifted author could be on par or surpass them.

This is a dense read that requires patience and perseverance. It took a while to sort out the different characters and the names were often similar which initially threw me a bit. Often had to refer to the maps and genealogical pages supplied.

Roman Clodia
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forget Shakespeare, this is the 'real' Macbeth... as Dunnett imagines him. Half-christian, half-pagan; half-Scottish, half Norse; Macbeth grows before our eyes from an unprepossessing and angry boy, to a man, a warrior and a king.

Like Dunnett's other magisterial books (the Lymond chronicles and House of Niccolo) this isn't ever an easy, formulaic or comfortable read, and the intricacies of the politics means that you have to read this more than once to have even a hope of understanding what is h
After reading two parts of the four from this enormous book, 400 pages or thereabouts, I gave up with more regret than I'd have anticipated; partly because I was enthusiastic about finding out a "historical" rendition of the life of the real Macbeth behind Shakespeare's play, and partly because this author had given me great moments before, only to fail me afterwards, so I'd hoped this would be the definite rebound.

But no, it wasn't. I'm starting to think Dunnett doesn't know what moderation and
Jean Gobel
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dunnett
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
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In which Dorothy Dunnett conflates two semi-apocryphal historical figures: Thorfinn the Mighty (from one of the Icelandic sagas) and Macbeth (from that play you were probably made to read in high school or in college).

Basically, we begin with young Thorfinn back in the 11th Century and follow him as he becomes first Earl of Orkney, then eventually King of Alba (early Scotland). And then, of course, things begin to go horribly, horribly wrong ...

Oh, and when Thorfinn takes the White Christ, his g
Peter Tillman
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[Review written in 2004]
My first Dunnett, and it's a crackerjack. OK, a big, fat crackerjack historical novel about 11th century Britain, specifically on the life of the (maybe) historic King Macbeth, who ruled Orkney and northern Scotland 1040-1058. For good measure, we get Lady Godiva, too. Plus Duncan, Malcolm, and Duke William waiting for his Big Moment in 1066, over there in Normandy.

She read some 700 books for KH! And compiled "145 interl
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.
Jun 04, 2013 added it
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
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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
Jan 09, 2019 marked it as abandoned
Abandoning this on page 190 (around chapter 20). This book is DENSE, and not in a good way. Dorothy Dunnett has done her research, so she knows exactly where every single political player in 11th-century Europe is. She spends most of her time moving people around, introducing characters, and explaining what each one of them is doing. My quarrel with the book is less that it's too dense, but that it's too dense in an unsatisfactory way. Because I don't think it's possible to hold the shifting all ...more
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
What a complicated review this is to write. And it will be a super short one to boot!

I do not want to give this book two stars. The writing quality alone deserves five stars. But what else should I give a book that I have tried twice to read and have never gotten passed about 100 pages?
Something about the story and plot simply isn't engaging enough for me. It is kind of a boring story and when you have so many books you want to (willingly) read in your year, it is hard to keep focus on a book yo
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
‘One day,’ Sulien said, ‘I think the Throne of St Peter will be as firm as it seemed, for a moment, it might be; I think the Empire will find a design by which to rule that does not break down between one prince and the next. I think the storms will subside and as nation settles by nation, there will be a place for quiet rule, and for building.
Till then, it will be the fate of most leaders to die in their prime, and the fate of most women to carry forward their essence; their habit of mind; thei
Simon Mcleish
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
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
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  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.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Well, I guess I have only myself to blame for reading all 720 tiny-typed pages. This historical novel, which Dunnett apparently regarded as her masterpiece, posits that the real-life Macbeth and his contemporary Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Earl of Orkney, were one and the same person. Dunnett based this theory, somewhat plausibly, on the fact the two men never appear together in the historical sources. A book with one foot planted firmly in Shakespeare and the other in Vikings would be just my cuppa if ...more
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wrote down few impressions, listed things that didn't sit well with me and deleted it all. I am too stupid to pass judgement on Dunnett's craft but I'll say this about the main character she created: I would forfeit millions of lives today to gain one like Thorfinn.
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A long but fascinating story about Macbeth which still lingers in my mind at the oddest moments. Haunting story.
Rick Slane
This was described on the cover as the historical Macbeth. If I remember the play correctly it did not seem much like it. The main character's Norse name is Thorfinn and parts of what is now Scotland were known as Alba and Scotia and he begins as ruler of part of the Orkney Islands. The book is over 700 pages long and I liked the last third of it the best. The time period the book covers is just before William the Bastard conquers England. There are also some similarities to the Game of Thrones ...more
Carolyn Haley
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dunnett is one of my favorite authors and while this may not be my favorite novel from her (I'm a Lymond fan first and foremost), I still very much enjoyed it. She's a challenging author to read, which is one of the reasons I like her, and this book is classic Dunnett, densely packed with political intrigue and literal empire building. It does seem to get bogged down in spots but on the first read, it's the main characters and the love stories (not just romantic but paternal and fraternal as wel ...more
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing

‘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
Michelle P
May 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Jaynee Russell-Clarke
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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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 and a series of mystery novels centered on Johnson Johnson, a portrait painter/spy.

Her New York times obitua
“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.”
“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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