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Review: I, Iago, Nicole Galland

i, iago

Growing up moderately wealthy in Venice, Iago has always been something of a disappointment to his father. Fifth son and a clever mischief maker, Iago ropes his friend Roderigo into misdeeds while using his clever words to escape blame. His life changes dramatically when he goes to join the Artillery and develops a well-deserved name and reputation for himself, even as his father continues to use him to achieve political success. Iago’s forthrightness and history gain him an unexpected position with the new General, Othello, and the love of his beautiful wife, Emilia. But Iago’s jealousy is a banked ember just waiting to burst into flame, with deadly consequences for all who hold him dear.

I read Othello back in high school, and I thought I’d forgotten most of it, but a book focused purely on Iago and just how he got to the point where he became obsessed with twisting the truth and destroying people’s lives was something that immediately appealed to me. I knew he was a great villain, and having read Galland’s previous books, I knew I was in for a treat. This book fulfilled all of my expectations, providing a fascinating view into the psyche of a man who is compelled to lie, to twist the truth, to plant insinuations, all because he is jealous and insecure in himself.

I can’t remember whether anything was specifically mentioned in regard to Iago’s past in Othello, but Galland imagines his insecurities traced back to his childhood, where his father simply refuses to believe in him and forces him to do the family’s bidding even at the potential expense of Iago’s career. Moving forward, he has difficulty believing in himself and seeks sole appreciation; his jealousy leaps out whenever his wife talks to another man, and the constant hints that his wife is actually Othello’s mistress lay the groundwork for all that is to come. The characters are the star of this show, particularly Iago as he spends plenty of time inside his own head. We can see when he is jealous and when he restrains himself, which happens increasingly over the course of the novel.

For me it was fairly clear when Galland was required to take on Shakespeare’s mantle and tell his story through her eyes; everything speeds up and becomes dramatic, and events begin to happen outside of Iago’s own head, most of them in the space of a single day. His own insinuations begin to spark Othello’s own insecurities and the denouement of the play comes to a rapid conclusion, resulting in a very speedy and tense read for the end of the novel. I knew what was going to happen, vaguely, but I can imagine the events being as surprising for a first time reader as they would be for someone who had seen the play. It is a Shakespearean tragedy, and I found myself dreading the ending as the characters became ever more familiar to me and Iago’s deception became clearer and more defined.

With well-defined characters and believable motivations for one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains, I, Iago is a fantastic read.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

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  1. April 2012 Reading Wrap-Up

10 comments to Review: I, Iago, Nicole Galland

  • I’ve seen a lot of buzz for this one lately and your enthusiasm makes me what to pick it up.

  • I just read a guest post by the author of this one regarding its creation. This is something I must pick up when I can. It sounds fascinating. Wonderful review today!

  • I’m waiting for my library system to order a copy of this book because I can’t wait to read it! Great review :)

  • I know this book is deeply personal for Nicole so I’m thrilled to see it’s so good.

  • It’s like WICKED but for Shakespeare!

  • Meghan, thank you, I’m honored by this review. Also tickled to hear the book has a “buzz” around it. And really delighted by the comparison with Wicked. Thank you all – Nicole Galland

  • I have been hearing a lot of good things about this book. I will probably read it at some point.

  • Waiting to get to this eventually.

  • Sounds fascinating, but I am still to read Othello would like to read it first.

  • julia

    I came across your blog while looking up the Mineko Iwasaki memoir after seeing it recommended in the comments of the YT video I’m currently watching of a 2005 BBC doco on Maiko (phew that’s a mouthful) and it’s proven to be delightful! I’m trying to get back into reading after taking a break from work (I’m a fashion designer)and realising that books are just as wonderful an art form as fashion.

    I just ordered this as I read Othello in year 12 of high school and our assignment on the novel was to re-create the story in a different way froma different perspective; mine used Iago’s wife’s point of view and Iago was a detective (Othello was the Police Commissioner, Desdemona his wife and Cassio his second in command of sorts) who had tampered with evidence and hence Desdemona died and Iago’s wife had found out and was being chased as she discovered his doings (and he was a serial killer!) and was running from him.

    Short answer, I so desperately wish that I had this for that assignment!