Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I, Iago by Nicole Galland

Title: I, Iago
Author: Nicole Galland

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Venice / Italy / Renaissance / Inspired by Shakespeare / Intrigue / Betrayal)
Publisher/Publication Date: William Morrow Paperbacks (4/24/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loooooooooooooooooooved.
Did I finish?: I did -- I couldn't put this down!
One-sentence summary: Shakespeare's Iago is made human in this novel imagining his life before his horrifying and tragic choices causes him to lose everything.
Reading Challenges: A-to-Z, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the mask is evocative of Venice, and reminds me a bit of the comedy/tragedy masks that usually hint at the theater. It's a bit text-heavy for my tastes but I like the fonts used!

I'm reminded of...: Lynn Cullen

First line: They called me "honest Iago" from an early age, but in Venice, this is not a compliment.

Did... I get a bit swoon-y at the author's real life overlap of Iago and romance and catharsis?: YES. This paperback is a P.S. edition, so there's a lovely Story Behind the Story essay about Galland's working with an actor who was unfamiliar with Iago's story and what happened as a result. Turns out, that story has a story behind it, which Galland shares with BermundaOnion on her blog, and it is absolutely worth reading. I got teary.

Did... I kind of crush on evil bad boy Iago?: YES. I'm not even prone to liking bad boys/bad girls/bad people, but Iago was a bit dreamy. (What does that say about me???)

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this is a meaty Renaissance historical that doesn't depend on a reader's familiarity with Shakespeare to enjoy.

Why did I get this book?: I love novels that explore the background of villains, and who is more villainous than Shakespeare's Iago?

Review: 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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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of I, Iago to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 5/18.

34 comments:

  1. You know, I have been on the fence about this book, but your review has convinced me that I need to read this one a.s.a.p.! I loved what you had to say about it, and love that Iago is such a wonderful character. Phenomenal review today, and off I go to order this one!

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    1. You do need to read it asap -- it was SO good!! A wonderful standalone novel that is inspired by Shakespeare and does Iago justice -- I liked him, I did, and I never thought I would!

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  2. "looooooooooved" huh? I read another book by this author that I liked but didn't love (The Fool's Tale), but this seems more up my alley. Lovely review, as always Audra. You've convinced me to add another book to my TBR pile - I may never forgive you ;)

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    1. I can't even pretend to be apologetic. ;) I was blown away by this book -- knowing what happened to the women who know Iago, I figured I'd loathe him from the start -- but no -- I was totally captivated! I'd offer you my copy but I'm actually going to keep this one -- I suspect it will be a reread for me!

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  3. Audra, thank you for this delicious review. It has brightened up a wet, grey New England May Day morning!

    I am currently visiting with a limerick fanatic who has urged me to write a limerick as a comment. (note: my limericks are awful) It's hard to find words that rhyme with "Iago" but I'll check in later and see if you are in the mood for it...

    -Nicole Galland

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    1. Ms. Galland -- thank you so much for stopping by!! If you can manage a limerick, I would be delighted! (And now I'm mulling over what rhymes with "Iago"...)

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  4. I had to review this as soon as I finished it yesterday afternoon. As you said, Iago was what sold me. His voice, his character. He was absolutely so much fun to read...until he wasn't. As you said, I know Othello, so I knew what to expect, but it didn't change how upsetting it was to see it happen.

    Can't wait to post my review Thursday!

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    1. EXACTLY! Having 'been' with Iago the whole time made the ending so much worse -- I just wanted to shake him and scream and beg him to take a step back -- and I rarely care this much about villains. I just loved how this book stole me away. I can't wait for your review now!!

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  5. I've seen this one around quite a bit lately, but I hadn't paused to really see what it was about! As a Shakespeare buff, I'm ashamed of myself -- and am definitely interested in it now. Thanks for inspiring me to pick it up!

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  6. I do not know, I mean it does not end well and that always makes me sad

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    1. It's true -- but the lead up is so worth it. It's such a meaty story!

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  7. Audra dear, if you will excuse how awful I am at limericks (please reassure your readers I am much better at prose!)...

    As the woman who wrote I, Iago
    I'd like to thank you for this blog-o
    I try to write fiction
    With emotional friction
    That ends with the reader agog-o.

    (Simply could not find anything that rhymes with Iago. Unless it's "cargo" with a very strong Boston accent.)

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    1. !!!!!!!!!!!!!! This.is.awesome! Thank you -- I am laughing so hard, I about choked on my coffee. (And I'm totally reading it now in a hard Boston accent which makes it even funnier.) Thank you so much for stopping by a second time and indulging me! I hope you're having a fabulous day!

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    2. Chicago! Chicago rhymes with Iago! I KNEW there had to be a word... glad you liked the sappy limerick ;-)

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  8. This is the second fantastic review I've read of this book in as many days! I'm so glad people are loving it because Nicole is so nice and I hope the book is a huge success. Thanks for linking to the guest post on my blog!

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    1. Knowing the story-behind-the-story-behind-the-story makes this book even more bittersweet and telling -- really evocative and emotional.

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  9. OK.. you talked me into it. Geez girl. Stop adding to my TBR pile.

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    1. I know, I know! But this one is *very* worth adding to the pile!

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  10. So glad to hear this one is a winner! The premise sounded wonderful, but I was afraid that the story would fail to do Shakespeare's famous character justice. It takes a talented writer to create "fleshed out and human" characters, especially in this situation. Can't wait to read now...great review!

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    1. Obviously, Shakespeare is Shakespeare, but I think Galland does a marvelous job going back and trying to imagine how Iago became the creature he did. As a standalone historical, this one is a winner, and for me, her Iago resonated, from start to finish. I can't wait to read your review should you get to this one!

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  11. This one does sound fun, and I love authors who take well known people (or characters) and give it a different spin.

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    1. I was really stunned that Galland made me like Iago -- I didn't think that was possible -- and so the end was even more upsetting. So.good.

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  12. Wow, this was not one I was planning to read, but after that review I will have to put it on my tbr list. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

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    1. So glad to add to that list! ;) This one is definitely worth putting there!

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  13. Now I am on the fence. I read one of the author's other books and really, really didn't like it, to the point it is one of the few DNF's in my time of blogging. Now though, I am seeing such good reviews of this one, I am not sure if I should give it a chance!

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    1. Marg -- I feel you! I don't know if it'll help you get a sense of whether you'd like this one or not, but there's an excerpt at the author's website. The scene featured is about...80ish pages in, maybe?

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  14. Oooh! Sounds exciting!I wrote a paper on him for Literature!
    So this sounds like something I want to read, because I was drawn to Iago as well.
    The British actor for Iago(the oly video version I saw of Othello!)not so much,just the character.
    My first time, interesting blog page! :) Thanks for the review.

    P.S. Your the winner for the Bronte cards on Bookie Brunch, do check you mail asap. Congratulations! :)

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  15. It's been years since I read Othello in college...but I'm thinking I'd probably like this book better than Shakespeare's play. Not that I dislike Shakespeare. ;)

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  16. I LOVE Othello and I HATE Iago, so now you have me REALLY wanting to read this one, as in RIGHT NOW.

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra!

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    1. Heather, you MUST read this one and then tell me if your feelings for Iago change!! I mean, I was pretty pissed with him at the end of this novel but because I knew he had so much more going for him! Gah -- so good -- I could so reread this one now!!

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  17. I've wanted to read this one from the get-go. After your review, only more so. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  18. your enthusiasm is infectious - history, drama & setting, sounds like a wonderful read!

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  19. I will certainly have to find the chance to read this one at some point. I enjoyed reading Othello in school and have always loved reading novelizations of Shakespeare plays, and this one has received some great reviews that are very compelling.

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