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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Iago - Novel Builds Enjoyable Shakespearian Myth
"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...
Published on March 2, 2012 by Jason Golomb

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Piggybacking
There is a long tradition, stretching back to the earliest days of the modern "novel," of writers attempting to add to or revise the narrative of a favorite novel by shifting attention to a minor or secondary character from the original, re-telling the story from a different perspective. A fine and famous example is Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, which tells the earlier...
Published on March 21, 2012 by Thomas F. Dillingham


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Iago - Novel Builds Enjoyable Shakespearian Myth, March 2, 2012
By 
Jason Golomb (Northern Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
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"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 constant. Through the eyes of someone who also has a constant anxiety-ridden self-dialogue, I found this very understandable.

We are introduced to Desdemona and slowly see Othello fall for her, shortly followed by Iago's indignity at Othello breaking the "bros before 'hos" philosophy, despite its one-sidedness because, of course, Iago is married. He's simply overcome by resentment, as the Florentine, Michele Cassio, becomes Othello's confidant in wooing Desdemona.

At times Iago is fully aware of his conniving, and realistic enough to be disgusted with himself. At other times, he rationalizes. He hides behind the auspices of wanting to protect his friend and general, while the jealousy and resentment burn slowly like a fuse to an explosive. His honesty is what enables his deceptions to work so effectively but also empowers things to run so wildly and quickly out if control.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though found greater enjoyment in the early goings as we meet the young and still developing personality, while exploring society and life in Renaissance Venice. Galland beautifully describes 16th century Venice, in all of it's mercantile, military and societal glory. Likewise, she does a marvelous job of putting flesh on the bone of this remarkably likable character. For this, I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

The second half focuses on the manipulations and their effects among Othello, Emelia, Desdemona, Cassio, and Iago himself. Still well written, I find some of the plot devices a bit wearisome, repetitive and somewhat annoying in that same way I can't watch `Three's Company" or "Friends" because of the weekly miscommunication that causes riotous sitcom mayhem.

The book is smart and is, at its heart, an enjoyable character study. One needn't have deep familiarity with the Shakespeare original to appreciate and enjoy the story.

I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine reviewers program.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Piggybacking, March 21, 2012
By 
Thomas F. Dillingham (Columbia, Missouri USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
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There is a long tradition, stretching back to the earliest days of the modern "novel," of writers attempting to add to or revise the narrative of a favorite novel by shifting attention to a minor or secondary character from the original, re-telling the story from a different perspective. A fine and famous example is Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, which tells the earlier life of Rochester's mad wife, from Jane Eyre. Another clever one is Mary Reilly, the re-telling of the Jekyll and Hyde story from a servant woman's perspective. Occasionally, as with Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, the same process can be applied to characters from a play.

In recent years, we have had a flood of such stories, some of them just "fan fiction"--devoted readers extending the stories of their favorite fictional characters, often on line. Others have exploited the popularity of particular writers, Jane Austen being possibly the most frequent source of novels purporting to reveal the inner secrets or truths of her minpr characters. The Bronte sisters also have provided such foundations, as has Virginia Woolf. What we hope for when we read such novels is a deepening of our understanding of the previously secondary character, or possibly a radically new understanding of the significance of the narrative, perhaps benefiting from what has been called "the Rashomon effect." And we might ask whether Nicole Galland has supplied such added values in her novel, I, Iago? I am afraid that the answer is no.

Iago is one of the darkest and most mysterious of all of Shakespeare's characters; efforts to unravel his motivations and to elucidate his meaning have offered many critics and actors significant challenges, and though many have offered exciting performances and subtle interpretations, I think no one would claim that his mystery has been solved, except by reductive explanations which do not satisfy. Even the great libretto by Arrigo Boito for Verdi's opera is forced to impose a narrowing and brutalizing characterization in order to make Iago fit into the narrowed focus of the operatic interpretation.

Nicole Galland, to be fair, has done a good job of researching the social and geographical background of Iago's life, and she provides convincing portrayals of his youth (growing up as a younger son in a strictly hierarchical culture that leaves him a lower standing, even though he is carefully presented as a boy and young man of superior intellect--exactly the kind of bright teenager who develops a fierce disgust with the culture and fashions around him, especially since he feels not only excluded but underappreciated according to his own estimate of his superior value and intelligence), of his military training, his courtship of Emilia, and his first encounter with the man who will be his nemesis, Othello. Roughly the first half of Galland's novel, therefore, provides the pleasures of a conventional historical novel--a bit of foreign culture and social behavior, some references to food and entertainment, and an outline of family structures and courtship customs.

Once Iago and Othello begin to work together, however, we quickly find ourselves on the stage of Shakespeare's play, complete with occasional quotations and more frequent allusions to Shakespeare's language, and very slightly altered (by perspective) versions of the familiar scenes of the play. It is at this point that we would hope for some new insights, some surprises, perhaps a twist that will show us to our amazement that what we have thought about Iago is simply not correct, or not sufficient. That is not to be. Galland falls back very quickly on the familiar and simplistic explanation of Iago's behavior--that he resents Othello's failure to promote him, further inflaming his jealousy of the Florentine interloper, Cassio, and that he is bothered by insinuations he encounters that Othello has a sexual interest in his wife, Emilia, as well as in Desdemona. We follow his tortured reasoning as he plots to discredit Cassio, on the assumption that Othello's favor to Cassio is just a momentary lapse, and he will surely see the value of honoring Iago, instead. Iago exploits Othello's insecurity and his shame about his epilepsy; Iago exploits Cassio's vanity and sense of entitlement; Iago exploits his friend, Roderigo's naive loyalty and wealth, implicating him in a murderous plot; perhaps most shamefully and foolishly, Iago exploits Emilia's love and faith in him to help him advance his effort to persuade Othello of Desdemona's infidelity. All these lead to the calamity we know from the final scenes--Othello's murder of Desdemona, Iago's murder of Emilia, Othello's suicide, Iago's vow never to say another word.

This novel reads smoothly and plausibly; it offers elegant presentations of historical details. Unfortunately, at no point does it show the least bit of creative daring or invention. Anyone familiar with the play will see the all-too-obvious building blocks being set in place through the first half of the novel--we know long before it is made explicit that Iago is likely to be resentful if those he admires do not offer him the praise and advancement that he feels he deserves from them. His injured self-esteem repeatedly reminds us of what is to come, and his self-deception about his own superiority is obviously his fatal flaw. And when the story reaches the point of the beginning of the play, everything falls into place with clockwork regularity. In the process, we realize that we will never learn anything new about Othello, Desdemona, or Cassio, nor even Emilia, because though Iago often boasts to himself that he knows and understands the behavior of those around him, we can see that he really is portrayed as deceiving himself about them in order to serve his own plans and plots. So in this novel, Othello remains a lesser character than he is in the play because Iago is incapable of perceiving him fully; the same for Desdemona (totally undeveloped), and the others. There is, in other words, nothing in this novel to justify its addition to the literary canon, since it is little more than a pastiche, or perhaps not much less.

It might be said that if Galland had made significant changes to the plot or characterizations, she would be faulted for doing that, "violating" the great work of Shakespeare; no doubt someone would have said that, but the question would be whether the innovations worked aesthetically or not; if they did, the objections would be brushed aside; if not, the objections would be less significant than the failure to create a successful new work of art. In this case, we will never know, though someone else might attempt an Iago novel in the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Take on Shakespeare's Honest Villain, May 3, 2012
This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
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Iago Sorzano, youngest and most extraneous son of a prosperous Venetian merchant, has lived as someone's pawn all his life. His father has managed his military career for family advantage. The city has made him a motto of its pretended virtues, without his permission. And his blunt honesty has made him an unwitting laughingstock. Yet he soldiers on, determined to be the right man for the right situation, because his integrity doesn't let him stop.

Nicole Galland recasts Shakespeare's most plainspoken villain as the hero of his own respective tragedy in this sequel to Othello. Far from the knave who challenges the audience to hate him, Galland's Iago is a man determined to live up to the standards others set for him. But a series of brutal reversals upset a man known for his honesty, teaching him to dissemble aggressively. And when he stands to lose everything, he embarks on his notorious campaign of vengeance.

Though more a scholar by inclination, Iago's father forces him into the military, where he proves to have unrecognized genius. This moves a formerly forgotten son to the peak of Venetian society. There he meets the two people who make him complete: Emilia, the beautiful wife who matches his constant witticisms, and Othello, the foreign general who becomes his best friend and greatest supporter. Iago appears to have every blessing a rich humanist society can afford.

But the intense military environment, and the shifting loyalties of the Senate and of factionalized Italy, test every citizen. Emotions run high, and when loyal friends make mistakes they can't take back, an honest man thinks he has no choice but to defend his honesty. Iago, formerly relentless in his pursuit of truth, becomes a sudden master of self-justification. He never sees how his desire to restore the balances only compounds the problem until just too late.

Galland's Iago makes a courtly lover and a supreme gentleman. But we also cannot trust him to tell us everything. He protests his own honesty so much that we realize the one person he has completely gulled is himself. His studied eloquence and his elaborate rationalization reveal rather more about himself than he realizes. Galland does an excellent job unpacking the possible motives of a character that has defied easy categorization for centuries.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A better retelling of Othello, September 18, 2012
This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
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I had the pleasure of recently reading both Nicole Galland's I, Iago and David Snodin's Iago, so I was able to compare them. I found them both to be enjoyable in that they offered a different perspective and more in-depth look at one of Shakespeare's most interesting villains. I found Galland's book to be more enjoyable and easier to get into. It just read a bit better and had more meat to its storyline and dialog.

I, Iago, offers an in-depth look at Iago's life and how events made him develop into the unlikeable and selfish man he grew to be. In Shakespeare's Othello, Iago's motivations seemed to stay on the periphery. Using Iago as the narrator, Galland has brought those motivations front and center as she pinpoints the downfalls and challenges he faced his whole life to give him such cynic al perceptions of just about everything around him. The story runs a clear path to Iago the distrustful, self-serving man and ends as we know Shakespeare's tragedies do, with many people dead in convoluted murders and suicides.

The best part of Snodin's novel was the rich description of the scenery. I though Galland did just as nice of job painting a picture of Italy and the people of the time. All parts of the novel kept my attention, be it description or dialog. The chapters were short, usually five to fifteen pages, so it was easy to find a good stopping point. I was so engrossed in the story though, I read the book in just two sittings. I, Iago offers a lot. It is a good story, a good read, and would make either a good vacation book or one for the book club.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting historical set in Renaissance Venice, May 27, 2012
This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
It's pretty ballsy to take one of Shakespeare's most famous characters and write a novel about him from his viewpoint, and there are tons of opportunities to make a horrible misstep. However, Nicole Galland's novel about Iago is awesome. It's straight up a great read: a meaty historical that is rich with detail but doesn't drown the reader, thick with evocative characters and exotic locales, dramatic plot and wonderful writing. Being unfamiliar with Othello isn't a problem, as Galland's story is set squarely with Iago, and we're with him from his youth through to the horrible, tragic end.

Set in Renaissance Venice, we meet Iago, the redundant fifth son of prosperous silk merchant, gifted to the military when his older brother dies in a stupid accident. Blunt Iago, too honest to be a politician or merchant, finds a place for himself in the bare, rough work of soldiering, and in that, he finds honor, notoriety, and some fame. Galland's characterization of Iago was what sold the book for me; from the first page, I knew exactly who he was. I'm super picky about being told a character has x attribute but never see the author demonstrate that; in this book, Iago is known for his bare honesty, his grouchy wit, and his monstrous intelligence, and Galland shows that over and over again. If you like bad boys, you're going to love Galland's Iago. I was charmed by him; I felt sympathy for him. I even admired him.

As a historical novel, this satisfies: Galland articulates the dramatic, artificial world of upper class Venice, the ponderous boredom of Italian infantry, and best of all, Venetian celebrations. Costumes, foods, architecture -- rich descriptions that helped me escape cold, rainy Boston.

And the end, oh, the end. I knew how things would shake since I'm familiar with Othello, but following Galland's Iago to the inevitable was heartbreaking -- even if he was a monster.

I didn't anticipate loving this book as much as I did since I far prefer to follow women rather than men and I'm a big wimp about violence toward women. And yet, Galland's character study was so fleshed out and human, I was captivated -- mesmerized -- by Iago, and I had to know what happened. I had to know why. Her supposition, her imagining of the world and circumstances that drove Iago to do what he did made sense to me, felt real to me, and still left me shocked and devastated. (In, of course, the best way, the way a really good book can do -- and make one feel grateful for the experience!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I have a new regard for Honest Iago, Ensign to Othello, May 2, 2012
By 
Philip Henderson (Irvine, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
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I loved this book. I am a huge fan of the work of Shakspeare. I have used Shakespeare's Othello to teach graduate students how to become outstanding leaders; they must avoid the pitfalls of Othello and be wary of an ally such as Honest Iago. I applaud the re-telling of the story by Nicole Galland. She gives full emotional lives to the important women in this story, Bianca, Desdemona, and lovely Emilia. Galland brings to life the culture and values of the Venetian royalty and shows Iago's blind ambition to be his greatest weakness. Even in his final acts of villany Iago fools himself to believe he can escape. Honest Iago indeed.

The reason that Shakespeare endures in our lives is that his fictional stories are honest. Shakespeare shows us with our weaknesses bared; we have the same weaknesses today. President William Jefferson Clinton suffered the same hubris that blinded Othello to the truth. Men of power want everything, and cannot resist a pretty young woman. Othello would have thrived in Venice if his social skills matched his wisdom as a General. Galland shows the ancient story from the point of view of a woman. I especially felt an understanding of the pain suffered by the female characters, more so than in Othello. I felt as though I was on stage with her characters at all times. I wanted to warn them of the evil plots they were trapped in, however, they met the sad fate of human fraility. Good work NIchole Galland. Next time I assign Othello I to my graduate students I will suggest they read your version of the story. Once I got started I did not want to put this book down. I knew the story well, yet Galland brought new dimensions to the story. I am grateful for her work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must, whether you know/like Shakespeare or not, April 26, 2012
This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
I hardly knew a thing about Shakespeare before I was in a production of Othello. This book would have totally captivated me before I knew the play (since I DO know the play I was delighted by the "insider" feeling I got, even in the places where I disagreed with Ms. Galland's take on it). But the real reason to read this story is because it's well-written, evocative, lively, witty and just a great story. The Emilia/Iago relationship is so satisfying without feeling romance-novely, and that (spoiler alert) makes Emilia's role in the ending far more heartbreaking than the original story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story, July 18, 2013
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This review is from: I, Iago (Kindle Edition)
It may help that I've never read or seen Othello performed (I know, I know...), so I was able to read this without the background to tell me how true it was to the play. Great character development, wonderful feel for the history and the time. Looking forward to reading more by this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About the actual protagonist of Othello, March 16, 2013
By 
Umesh Vyas (Mumbai, India) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I, Iago (Kindle Edition)
Iago, is one of most fascinating characters, not only in Othello, not only in Shakespeare, but in the universe of fiction. Nicole Galland is very brave in attempting to extend Shakespeare's masterpiece. She has done a great job.

Reading, watching, or enacting Othello makes one wonder why the play was named Othello, not Iago. Othello is Iago's story. Iago is the creator of the plot in the play itself. 'I, Iago', appropriately restores Iago's position. The novel is about Iago. Starts with his childhood and builds up to the end of Othello. Othello's opening comes only after about half of this book is complete.

'I, Iago' is not just a great extension of a timeless classic. It is also very non-put-downable. It is a page-turner despite the total familiarity with the plot. It's characterizations are riveting, despite knowing them so well.

Of course, this book also provides much more than the play. Particularly about Emilia, Iago's wife. The biggest addition is the insight into Iago's mind, a very challenging enterprise.

Strongly recommend this book to all, particularly Shakespeare-philes and Othello-philes. Become Galland-philes and Iago-philes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A retelling of Othello... and pretty much just that, May 29, 2012
This review is from: I, Iago: A Novel (Paperback)
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I think I wanted to like this book more than I did. I also want to make it clear that I did quite enjoy this book. But I also spent some time debating between a 3 or a 4 star rating and came to the conclusion that while this a smooth, exciting book, it's mainly because Shakespeare already tells a good story. Like a good piece of Shakespearean fanfiction, this does everything right but would admittedly have nothing without Shakespeare. So when the most exciting parts of the book are... what we already know, all praise must be granted to other literary aspects and the result is a more or less average novel.

The book promises to be an examination of Iago's true motives in this Shakespearean tragedy. However, I failed to find anything significantly more in depth than to what we already know of the man. Galland's Iago is a fine and proper villain and his story kept up at a proper pace, but if deeper motives were expected they never arrived. As fpr the rest of the cast... once more, all likeable, all familiar, all fun to read about. Galland does a fine job bringing this classic characters foreward to more modern language for the modern reader.

But it's all a little too familiar. If you are not familiar with "Othello", this will be new and interesting. Heck, all the Shakespearean fans who like a decent retelling should be pleased. But aside from a little backstory that seemed superfluous it's just "Othello" retold without any significant insights or anything particularly new.

It's a good novel and Galland's writing is solid and she knows how to tell the story and I would give it a mild recommendation for Shakespeare fans.

But one might as well just go read the play.
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I, Iago: A Novel
I, Iago: A Novel by Nicole Galland (Paperback - April 24, 2012)
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