Sunday, May 20, 2012
Historical Fiction: I, Iago by Nicole Galland
Date: April 24, 2012
Source: GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.)
Reading time: three days
*spoiler alert, at least if you're not familiar with Shakespeare's original Othello*
From GoodReads: Everyone knows Shakespeare's classic tragedy of friendship and betrayal, love and jealousy: Othello. But the real story lies deep in the culture and biases of Venice and the childhood of a young man named Iago who could not escape his status as "runt of the litter" in his family nor his "distasteful" tendencies toward honesty that made him a social outcast. In Nicole Galland's I, Iago we follow Iago from his childhood days playing pranks with young, naive Roderigo to falling in love with Emilia to betraying his closest friends and family, sealing his fate as one of the most notorious villains of all time.
My review: Well, this definitely will be included in my top reads of 2012! I was a little concerned over the redundancy of this after having recently read Iago by David Snodin back in December, but, other than the common source for the story, the two are completely different. Galland's version is told from the point of view of Iago himself, tracing his childhood and adult experiences in the military up to his infamous plot on Cyprus. Along the way, Galland throws in a great deal of information on Venetian society, particularly its idiosyncrasies and the general foppish nature of its higher echelon.
The cast of characters proved to be quite unexpected. Iago begins as a fairly likable character, sharing his sarcastic reflections upon higher society in a generally humorous manner. I never expected to laugh while reading a retelling of a tragedy! Iago's wife, Emilia, likewise proves an interesting and charming character, as do Othello and Desdemona. I was really enjoying reading about their lives in Venice and in the military, the developing bond of deep friendship between Othello and Iago, and the relationships between each couple. Too bad the whole tragedy part of Othello had to begin developing about halfway through...
The biggest shame about the book? As with Shakespeare's play, Cassio is the only main character to survive - and he's the one no one likes. Cassio is a complete fop, while the other characters are likable and engaging. Oh, and doesn't Cassio get appointed governor at the end of Othello? What an ironic laugh!
The other great things about Galland's novel are her writing and her development of Iago's character. Galland has a truly excellent writing style, and she cohesively weaves together the difficult plot structure so that all of its developments make perfect sense and never seem out of place. She makes out Iago not as a villain, but as someone whose personal beliefs and aspirations cloud his mind until the results of his actions spiral out of his control. The shift from likable character to "villain" is fluid and expertly developed, making this one of the most superb retellings of a classic tale that I've ever had the good fortune to read.