I, Iago: A Novel

( 13 )

Overview

From Nicole Galland, acclaimed author of The Fool's Tale, comes a marvelous evocation of a distant time and place . . . and a breathtaking reexamination of one of literature's classic villains

From earliest childhood, the precocious boy called Iago had inconvenient tendencies toward honesty—a failing that made him an embarrassment to his family and an outcast in the corrupt culture of glittering Renaissance Venice. Embracing military life as an antidote to the frippery of ...

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I, Iago

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Overview

From Nicole Galland, acclaimed author of The Fool's Tale, comes a marvelous evocation of a distant time and place . . . and a breathtaking reexamination of one of literature's classic villains

From earliest childhood, the precocious boy called Iago had inconvenient tendencies toward honesty—a failing that made him an embarrassment to his family and an outcast in the corrupt culture of glittering Renaissance Venice. Embracing military life as an antidote to the frippery of Venetian society, Iago won the love of the beautiful Emilia and the regard of Venice's revered General Othello. After years of abuse and rejection, Iago was poised to achieve everything he had ever fought for and dreamed of . . .

But a cascade of unexpected deceptions propels him on a catastrophic quest for righteous vengeance, contorting his moral compass until he has betrayed his closest friends and family, and sealed his own fate as one of the most notorious villains of all time.

Inspired by William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Othello—a timeless tale of friendship and treachery, love and jealousy—Galland's I, Iago sheds fascinating new light on a complex soul, and on the conditions and fateful events that helped to create a monster.

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Editorial Reviews

St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
“[A]ttention to detail and humor keeps the novel both exhaustive and hilarious...Nicole Galland is exceptionally well versed in the fine nuances of storytelling and illustrating the combustible nature of mixing religion, commerce and war.”
Booklist
“A tasty fictional stew, mixing elements of twelfth-century culture together skillfully to produce a veritable reading feast . . . .The combination of vicious politics, mysterious doings, betrayals, and double-dealing, added to a leisurely but engaging plot, will keep those pages turning.”
New York Post
“[A] funny (really!) look at this disastrous Crusade through the eyes of a wacky Welshman, a pious knight and his half-brother and an Arab princess (who isn’t what she seems) they hope to return to her Egyptian home. It’s a raucous road trip set in the 13th century.”
Martha's Vineyard Times
“[A]t once an idiot’s guide to the tangled geopolitical landscape of 13th century and a clear and stern indictment of contemporary events...Thick with delectable historical details.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“A wallop of a first novel—entertaining and engaging.”
William Dietrich
“ THE FOOL’S TALE creates a vivid 12th Century world and three unforgettable characters whose lives entwine with war and politics, and climax in an ending as haunting as it is powerful.”
Geraldine Brooks
“An astonishing work of imaginative empathy, buttressed by deep research and enriched by lively storytelling.”
Peter Sagal
“This is a wonderful historical novel that proves that all people see themselves as the hero of their own lives.”
San Francisco Chronicle on The Fool’s Tale
“A wallop of a first novel—entertaining and engaging.”
More magazine on I
“The delights of this book, lushly set in Renaissance Venice, lie in Galland’s ability to take a series of tiny mistakes, deceptions and wrong turns and roll them into a juggernaut.”
Martha's Vineyard Times on CROSSED
“[A]t once an idiot’s guide to the tangled geopolitical landscape of 13th century and a clear and stern indictment of contemporary events...Thick with delectable historical details.”
Booklist
“A tasty fictional stew, mixing elements of twelfth-century culture together skillfully to produce a veritable reading feast . . . .The combination of vicious politics, mysterious doings, betrayals, and double-dealing, added to a leisurely but engaging plot, will keep those pages turning.”
New York Post
“[A] funny (really!) look at this disastrous Crusade through the eyes of a wacky Welshman, a pious knight and his half-brother and an Arab princess (who isn’t what she seems) they hope to return to her Egyptian home. It’s a raucous road trip set in the 13th century.”
St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
“[A]ttention to detail and humor keeps the novel both exhaustive and hilarious...Nicole Galland is exceptionally well versed in the fine nuances of storytelling and illustrating the combustible nature of mixing religion, commerce and war.”
Kirkus Reviews
Galland (Crossed, 2008, etc.) takes on one of literature's greatest villains and tries to make him sympathetic. For a large part of the novel--until the introduction of Othello when events from Shakespeare's play take over--she succeeds. As the fifth son of a Venetian silk merchant, Iago has limited prospects. His precociousness and his growing reputation for blunt honesty don't help in a society where insipid, phony etiquette is prized if not required. He spends his childhood getting into mild scrapes with his poorer, weaker friend Roderigo, whom he is always protecting, before his father enrolls him in the military. There he finds himself and excels. He meets Emilia at a Venetian masked ball and falls in love with her wit and intelligence even before he learns she is beautiful. Despite Iago's bouts of jealousy, theirs is a marriage of soul mates. Emilia remains his (and the novel's) heart and conscience to the end. Meanwhile the Moor Othello has been named General by the Venetian senate. When Othello and Iago meet at a ball, they immediately connect, recognizing that they are both outsiders who don't really want to fit into society, Iago for his mouth and Othello for his black skin. Othello makes Iago his ensign, an important promotion. After the battle at Rhodes, Othello suffers an epileptic fit and Iago covers for him. So when Othello falls for Desdemona, Iago is understandably hurt and jealous that he is left out of the loop as the romance develops with Emilia's help. Then an alcoholic, womanizing fop from Florence shows up; Cassio lacks Iago's military skills but because he carries secret letters between the general and Desdemona he gets the lieutenancy that should go to Iago. Resentment turns the love Iago has felt for Othello into hate. Although Iago doesn't really mean to kill anyone, he's not good at intrigue. Familiar Shakespearean tragedy ensues. Too bad the switch from empathetic protagonist into villain is not quite believable, because until then Iago and Emilia are magic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062026873
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 370
  • Sales rank: 637,001
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicole Galland is the author of four previous novels: The Fool's Tale, Revenge of the Rose, Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade, and I, Iago. She's worked in theater, screenwriting, magazine publishing, grad-schooling, teaching, temping, and other random enterprises. She is the cofounder of Shakespeare for the Masses, a project that irreverently makes the Bard accessible to the Bardophobes of the world. She is married to actor Billy Meleady.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2012

    I love it when my reaction to a new novel catches me by surprise

    I love it when my reaction to a new novel catches me by surprise -- and this one, frankly, knocked me over. How is it possible that reading story whose ending I know as well as Othello's kept me up all night reading because I wanted to know how it was going to turn out?

    Oh, I already knew what was going to happen -- as, I suspect will most potential readers. Most of us know the basics, right? General Othello and the lovely Desdemona are in love, Iago convinces Othello to become madly jealous, and the stage quickly becomes littered with corpses. So I was not precisely expecting to be astonished by the story. So why was I, Iago the proverbial book I could not put down?

    For a very simple reason: this retelling of Othello not only seduced me into liking the villain -- something I would not have thought possible -- but feeling by the tumultuous last quarter of the book that by having empathized with his increasingly warped sense of right and wrong, I had become enmeshed in his fate. Somehow, by not shouting no early enough to stop the inevitable, the story made me feel complicit in his plot.

    That's right: the reader is the unindicted co-conspirator here. How refreshing to have a novel take the reader's involvement and intelligence so seriously -- and to repay it so well.

    And to do it so subtly, thank goodness. At first, Iago seems merely sensitive and observant, a boy not born into a social class that would permit him the luxury of self-determination, but increasingly determined to set his own course despite a demanding father's demands (especially well-drawn) and a frivolous social order not given to recognizing real worth. He has to fight hard to remain honest, and it frequently costs him dearly.

    So when he begins to feel just a bit resentful of others' advancement, who can blame him? Why shouldn't he gain the wife he wants, the promotion he craves, the spot at the exotic newly-minted general's side? Shown through Iago's eyes, his wants seem so reasonable, even moderate, and his opposition so privileged that we cannot help but cheer him on as he navigates the complex world of Venetian military and social politics.

    By the time he starts to display enough sharp-edged jealousy to startle us, the reader is already implicated in what gradually emerges as a slow-acting, closely-observed madness from the point of view of the madman. Iago genuinely wants to believe he is doing the right thing as he continues to do more and more egregiously wrong ones.

    The thing is, his justifications remain insidiously plausible, right up to the point when not even he can believe what he has done. But by then, as in all great tragedy, self-knowledge can no longer save him -- or anybody else. The die is cast.

    An unexpected fringe benefit that friends of the Bard will love: this story is so steeped in the Shakespearean ethos that small hints of his other works seem to have been built into the very plaster of the ballrooms and steel of the swords. Here is an image plucked from a sonnet; there is descriptor reminiscent of Juliet. And could that possibly be a reference to Pericles, Prince of Tyre?

    It is, in a word, fun -- not word I generally associate with tragedy. If I have a critique (other than having lost sleep to this story), it's that I would have liked to see both Desdemona's very genuine wit and Othello's descent into overwhelming paroxysms of jealousy in a bit more detail. Why was this great mind so easily overthrown?

    But that's a minor quibble. As an established fan of Nicole Galland, naturally, I expected to be charmed by the writing, and I definitely was, but I have to say, I think this is her best book to date. She's a wonderful historical novelist, deft in her wit, incisive in presenting long-ago social dynamics, thorough in her research, and gifted at bringing a bygone era to life.

    If only I didn’t feel so guilty for having tricked the Moor.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2012

    I LOVED this book. This surprised me because I am not a huge Sh

    I LOVED this book. This surprised me because I am not a huge Shakespeare fan. But that did not matter and nor does the fact that everyone knows that Shakespeare's tragedies end tragically. Until the end, the book is vivid and alive with compelling, richly developed characters (and the city of Venice is one of them) and scheming and intrigue and Venetian politics and romance and humor. If Nicole Galland gave this treatment to all of Shakespeare's works, I'd read every one.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2012

    Surprise, a sympathetic Iago. The authors use of the Venetian so

    Surprise, a sympathetic Iago. The authors use of the Venetian society as an excuse for Iago's rise and fall from grace puts this Shakespearian villain in a new light. The power of gossip is  theme that is still relevant today. The easy twisting of Othello's affection is still a bit of a mystery but otherwise I found this book easy to read and enlightening as to Iago's motivation onto his path of revenge.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2013

    Meh

    It was alright.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Wow! Couldn't put the book down. I had no idea what this was ab

    Wow! Couldn't put the book down. I had no idea what this was about until I read the name Othello. I, however have never had the pleasure of reading or seeing the play. It is something I will pursue as soon as I read Ms. Galland's other books, if they are anywhere near as fascinating or wonderfully written as I, Iago then I know I am in for a wonderful experience. Ms. Galland, Thank You, Thank You and Thank you again for a riveting read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    Iago as tragic hero? Love it!

    Definitely worth reading! Even in the last pages, and even knowing how it would end, I was still rooting for Iago, who is classically the villain, and still had hope that the ending might come out differently than expected. That is masterful storytelling indeed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    what a fun read!

    this is the first book I have read by Galland, and now that I know what she is about, I've got to have more! Terrific storyteller and especially about characters we read in high school (Shakespeare) sometimes under duress! Highly recommend this wonderfully entertaining author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Really interesting

    What a great turn on the classic! You never think of the villian's side of the story until you read a book like this. The characters really drew me in, and although the ending was bitter, i'd still read it again. It can be a bit boring at times, but overall an interesting read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    Enjoyable

    Shakespeare without the iambic pentameter! Very very nice. Will read more of this author

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Awesome book

    I really enjoyed this bok and was sorry when it ended. About 370 pages long with mild violence.

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  • Posted October 15, 2012

    loved it!

    you always hear that there are 2 sides to every story but how often do you get to hear the other side of the story? unlike with wicked, this doesn't really leave you with any sympathy for iago. you see him as less of a disgruntled social climber and more as a sociopath. i did like how the ladies seem a little less stupid than in shakespeare's version. great retelling.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    Nicole Galland scores again with a fun, erudite and well researc

    Nicole Galland scores again with a fun, erudite and well researched read. This Shakespeare expert displays great creativity in both character and story development, exploring Venice and the environs at an engaging time. This psychological thriller is a worthwhile read on many levels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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