I, Iago: A Novel

I, Iago: A Novel

by Nicole Galland


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062026873
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/24/2012
Edition description: Original
Pages: 370
Sales rank: 272,299
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Nicole Galland's five previous novels are The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago, and Godiva. She writes a cheeky etiquette column for the Martha's Vineyard Times. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

What People are Saying About This

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.”

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.”

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I, Iago: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Bookgobbler More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
wrmjr66 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nicole Galland writes the autobiography of Iago, having him tell his life story from childhood up to--and including--the action in Shakespeare's "Othello." Whereas David Snodin's "Iago" focuses on Iago's life after the play, Galland's novel spends most of its time on Iago's life before the fateful action in Cyprus.Gelland stays fairly close to the play, and she peppers her novel with quotations from Othello as well as from other plays by Shakespeare. Unfortunately, by covering some of the same ground as Shakespeare's great work, the novel invites comparisons that don't reflect well on it. The tightness of the action in the play seems bloated here. Characters like Emilia get much more space in the novel, but Gelland's Emilia isn't as sharp-tongued as Shakespeare's (though she correctly portrays her as the string that unvavels Iago's plans). Of course, ultimately, I can't say the novel is a failure because it isn't as good as Shakespeare's play. It is an enjoyable novel that succeeds in one area admirably: it sent me scurrying back to Shakespeare to read his great play once again.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A clever, thoughtful novel, this is a retelling of Shakespeare¿s Othello from the viewpoint of Iago, the villain of the play. Like many of Shakespeare¿s plays, the motives of the characters in Othello are open to interpretation. Volumes of literary commentary have been written about Othello, but by retelling the story as a novel, this book takes a fresh look at the character of Iago and his motives.We all know what happens, of course. Iago plays on the jealousy and insecurity of the Moor Othello, the general of the Venetian Army, and his innocent wife Desdemona. Things get out of hand, of course, since it is a tragedy. Othello murders Desdemona, and Iago murders his best friend and his wife.The novel starts, not with the beginning of the play, but with the childhood of Iago, and fills us in on the backstory of his character that is missing from the play, thus giving us a better understanding of his motives. The second half of the novel covers the action of the play, but since it is told from the first person perspective of Iago, we do not see any of the action in which he is not involved, and are not privy to the private thoughts of any of the other characters. This is very effective. My take on Iago, as presented in the novel, is that he loved Othello, and was jealous after being passed over in his promotion, and at the attention given to Desdemona.I was also impressed with the author¿s use of dialog. She used modern English, of course, but it has the flavor of Shakespeare¿s dialog, with it¿s use of word play and puns and double entendres.The novel is clever, carefully planned, and well written. Highly recommended.
JGolomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"I knew to the depths of my soul that nothing I did was errant, that in the greater sense, I acted out of righteousness, however vengeful and indirect it seemed." In Nicole Galland¿s wonderful, ¿I, Iago¿, Iago ponders the intricate web of deceit, defamation and lies he weaves that will culminate in an inevitable calamity of heartache, pain and bloodshed. The reader, of course, knows what¿s coming. William Shakespeare¿s ¿Othello¿ is well known in its original form, but has also been adapted for modern audiences in film. Iago is the center point upon which all of the characters in Shakespeare¿s play orbit. He is the masterful manipulator. He¿s a debonair deceiver. He¿s the ultimate enigma. Two recently released books look to shed light on this most puzzling character. What drives the manipulator of men to create a situation where his best friend, his wife, and his admired General all wind up dead?While David Snodin¿s ¿Iago¿ focuses strictly on the aftermath of the events in ¿Othello¿, and attempts to unwind the character through a continuation of the story, Nicole Galland takes a more courageous approach by exploring Iago¿s personality from his modest upbringing in Venice right up through, and including, the well-known events as they occur on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.Galland leaps right into the heart of the enigma in the first lines of her novel: ¿They call me ¿honest Iago¿ from an early age, but in Venice, this is not a compliment. It is a rebuke. One does not prosper by honesty.¿ Gallands¿s smooth handling of Iago¿s first-person narration immediately struck me. Despite a certain expectation of awkward Renaissance-era language, Iago comes across comfortably and familiar. He¿s born the fifth son of an extremely demanding and cold father, and instantly the character of Iago starts to take shape. He grew up in the shadow of siblings who were all destined for greater things than he. Even if it was only because they¿d been born sooner.Honesty and truth, naturally, are running themes throughout the novel. As he grows older, Iago becomes a bit of a minor celebrity in Venice, establishing himself for bluntness, honestly and forthrightness. He¿s consistent in his need to remain truthful, even as he learns how to twist and modify his words to elicit the response and action he so desires. The truth becomes slightly less than truth, but thoroughly manipulative and certainly foreshadowing the coming disaster played out in Shakespeare¿s portion of Iago¿s tale.Repeatedly, Iago finds himself among the social elite of Venice, where his utter disdain for the social game becomes a practice ground for Iago¿s oral manipulations. In seeking to identify the motivational factors that make Iago who he is, Galland puts on display Iago¿s distaste for the `frippery¿ and fakery of Venetian society.While Iago¿s childhood friend Roderigo is introduced early in the story, Galland teases out the other key Shakespearian characters throughout the first half of the story. Galland portrays a wonderfully romantic, albeit short, courtship between the Emilia and Iago. The remaining characters seamlessly integrate into Iago¿s life; the highlight of which is an enjoyable first meeting of Othello himself.We learn of Iago¿s intense propensity towards jealousy. The drivers are miniscule, but exposed throughout the story and combined with sporadic but fierce bouts of rage, Galland continues to foreshadow the inescapable conclusion.This jealousy extends even to his relationship with Othello. The two fall into a comfortable `bromance¿ as Iago becomes Othello¿s anchor point in connecting with the very foreign and incomprehensible Venetian superficiality. It takes little for Iago to question Othello¿s loyalty, an insecurity we see in all of his relationships, eventually. Iago reflects, "it was some twisted fear in me, the residue of childhood insults from my father, that could make me doubt Othello even for a moment. " Iago is extremely self analytical. It's constan
angelswing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It was cleverly written and offered a fresh perspective on a character that before we only had a one-sided prespective (from Shakespeare). Quite creative, I recommend it!
MillieHennessy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the look into Iago's life that this book provided. It started with him as a boy, compelled to always speak his mind, and say what he felt was the truth. It was interesting to see the way Iago's personality developed upon marrying, and then upon meeting Othello. This book really showed the bond the formed between the two men, and over the course of the story, it became clear how much Iago valued Othello's friendship. The story developed as Iago felt he was slighted when Cassio was promoted over him. Both Cassio and Desdemona played a part in forming Iago's new nature as "villain." He felt his friendship was being stolen, and I enjoyed his sort of slow descent into madness. The plot did slow down a little toward the middle, and though I know a lot of the scenes helped Iago's character development, I did some skimming and found myself wishing the book were a little more concise. Overall, I enjoyed a closer look at Iago.
TomKitten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's somewhat remarkable that two writers should choose to delve deeper into the whys and wherefores of Shakespeare's greatest villain, that their books should appear within months of each other and that I should be sent both as Early Review books. Should there be a third on the horizon, I don't think I'll request it. That's, in part, because it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job at the formidable task of creating a back story for Iago than Nicole Galland has done with [I, Iago]. I've written about David Snodin's [Iago], elsewhere. Suffice to say I found it less than satisfying. Nicole Galland's approach to the story is to take the events and characters in Othello and rewind all the way back to a day in his boyhood when Iago learned a valuable lesson in the merits of honesty after he and his friend Rodrigo were caught playing a childhood prank. The story is told from Iago's point of view and he goes on to tell us of his relationship with his cold and demanding father, his training in the army, his first years in the service and the making of his reputation as a soldier, a swordsman, and, above all, an honest man. One by one, the other characters in the play are introduced until they're all gathered just off stage, waiting for the cue to begin, once again, the terrible sequence of events that we know as the Tragedy of Othello. This is all masterfully done. Even knowing what Iago is about to do, Ms Galland manages to get us on his side and make him not only likable but admirable. We understand what drives him, what draws him to Othello, why he is so stung when the lieutenancy he expects to be given goes to Cassio instead. His courtship and marriage to Emilia is movingly portrayed as a romance of loving, intelligent and equal minds. If that seems an impossibility, given what we know will happen to her, let me assure you that not only does Nicole Galland make their relationship romantic, even sexy, but giving them that back story just makes their ending all that much more horrible and tragic.Let's face it: no one's ever going to write a better version of Othello. But what Nicole Galland has managed to do is create a novel that borrows characters and events and yet feels entirely original, vital and compelling while still true to the source. And I can't imagine anyone ever doing a better job of that, either.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Othello and Hamlet seem to be the Shakespeare tragedies most often read by high school and college students, at least in my non-scientific experience. In my case, Hamlet trumps Othello in terms of the number of times I was required to read it in my years of schooling but when it came time to choose a play to teach, I couldn't face Hamlet one more time and instead settled on Othello for its relative accessibility and interesting themes. That it has one of Shakespeare's all time baddies, Iago, in it didn't hurt. He's a fascinating viper of a character, conniving, rude, and racist. And yet he must have some good qualities to have reached the station he has. But what are they? And how did they get so subsumed that he is the reprehensible character he is in Shakespeare's creation? Nicole Galland has taken these questions and created an intriguing tale, one in which Iago's character is explained and understood without being immediately reviled by a reader familiar with Othello.Iago is the fifth son of a Venetian silk merchant and as such, is more a burden than anything else. He has never earned his father's approval or pride in anything and is simply used as a pawn in order to advance his father's ambitions. Iago's best friend Rodrigo is the son of a poor spice merchant and the two boys get into scrapes as most boys do. Iago uses his forthright blunt honesty to get them out of trouble, learning that although Venetian society was founded and suckled on artifice, his honesty is different, unexpected, and even grudgingly respected (although never emulated by others). Unhappily sent to the army to replace his clumsy older brother who suffered a fatal accident in his own military training, Iago finds that he in fact excels at shooting and swordplay and he enjoys earning things on his own merit rather than being tied to the patronage system governing the rest of society.Iago pays his dues, serving dull tours of duty with the army and coming back to Venice periodically, finding himself more and more disgusted with the artifice of the city, a native-born outsider more than ever. But on one of his leaves, in the midst of the famous revelries of Carnivale, he catches sight of the beautiful Emilia, a woman no more pleased with the falseness of the forms than he is and Iago falls desperately in love, pursues her with his whole heart, and eventually marries her. Their deep love is only marred by Iago's irrational jealousy when other men pay Emilia the slightest attention. And once he meets and becomes indispensible to Othello, his true and faithful ensign, he has to fight his jealousy often when others think that Emilia is Othello's mistress.But his jealousy extends to anyone he loves and respects and that certainly encompasses his general, Othello. Iago finds himself jealous of Michele Cassio who becomes necessary to Othello as well and even of the beautiful Desdemona when Othello falls in love with her. When his jealousy gets the better of him, causing him to become secretive, growing in cunning, and to start learning and exceling in the art of deceit, his character moves towards the man Shakespeare created, making him desperate for revenge against the losses of those things, the lieutenancy promotion, Othello's regard and trust, his reflected glory-aided social standing, he considers rightfully his and no others'.The climax, for those familiar with the play, is no surprise, although Iago's own silent interpretation of events might be. He is both the ambitious, terrible, and conniving villain of Shakesepeare and the pitiable man who could never win his father's approbation or interest, the expendable pawn always striving to be better and to be recognized for his talents. Galland has managed to create a believable, human portrait of an Iago with failings that cause horrific tragedy and his own downfall but whose motivations aren't simply purely evil. I actually set the book down at one point and couldn't remember where I had
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the third novelized version of a Shakespearean play that I have read in recent months, and it is by far the best. Two of these have been based on Iago, the villain of Othello. I found David Snoddin's Iago to be a bit of a bore: too many peripheral details and characters and a stilted, overwrought style. Galland's I, Iago hits just the right note for lovers of historical fiction.Galland begins her study with Iago's imagined youth. As the least favored of three sons, his life is driven by an overbearing, unaffectionate father and a desire to please the same. A boy who loves his books, Iago is taken from school at a young age and placed in training for the Venetian militia. Part of his task is to make up for the embarrassment of his eldest brother, who died of an accidentally self-inflicted wound. In time, he gains a reputation as a fine swordsman and becomes ensign to Othello, an exotic Moor newly appointed as general of the Venetian army. From here the story proceed to its anticipated end.Galland fleshes out Iago's history with some of the play's secondary characters, including a boyhbood friendship wtih Roderigo, a spice merchant's son who refuses to give up his suit of Desdemona. While Shakespeare's Iago seems to be trapped in a stale and perhaps loveless marriage to his wife Emilia, Galland creates passion and devotion between the couple. As for Michele Cassio, he becomes even more of a foolish, pompous fop than Shakespeare allows. And Venice itself plays a much more significant role in this novel, its splendor, pettiness, materialism, and competitiveness on full display.Overall, I, Iago was an enjoyable read, and Galland succeeds in providing enough motivation for the main character's evil deeds that, although he remains a bit of a monster, he is at least a humanized and therefore more recognizable monster.
jcelrod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of Shakespeare's Othello although once the story reached the point at which Shakespeare's play begins, I found myself dreading the ending. Galland deftly crafts a multi-dimensional Iago, a man who is both capable of terrible things but also of eliciting sympathy from the reader. Having read Shakespeare's play, I have always thought of Iago as one of the worst villains in literature but Galland shows that he cannot be quite so easily categorized. I also found the depiction of Venetian society and military endeavors interesting to read about. I'm not usually a big fan of retellings but this is definitely an exception.
rmckeown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shakespeare¿s Othello is one of his four great tragedies along with Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. I especially enjoy teaching Othello, which I alternate with Lear. When I heard about Galland¿s novel, I, Iago, which is part prequel and all retelling of the story from Iago¿s point of view, I eagerly awaited its rise to the top of my TBR pile. This recently published novel is great fun ¿ especially for those familiar with the play.I won¿t go into any of the details of the plot ¿ if the play is not familiar territory, this novel would be a great introduction. But the real fun is in noticing lines and characters from the play as they pop up almost from page one. So, I would advise reading the play first.Othello has some of the great lines from the Bard: ¿green-eyed monster,¿ ¿the beast with two backs,¿ and, of course, Iago¿s final line in the play, ¿Ask me nothing, ¿ What you know, you know. From this time forth I will not speak another word¿ (368). Some of these lines Galland alters slightly, but the essence is always there.Galland recounts Iago¿s early days from his childhood pranks with his boyhood friend, Rodrigo to his relationship with his father, and the origin of the epithet, ¿Honest Iago.¿Even though I knew exactly how the plot would spin out, the last hundred pages or so were thrilling as the downhill side of the highest roller coaster in the land.Incidentally, I think the 1995 Kenneth Branagh, Lawrence Fishburne, and Irène Jacob Othello is a most interesting and accessible version of the play. 5 stars--Jim, 6/13/12
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was alright.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shakespeare without the iambic pentameter! Very very nice. Will read more of this author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this bok and was sorry when it ended. About 370 pages long with mild violence.
soulscater More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.