I, Iago by Nicole Galland
They called 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.
In Nicole Galland's, I, Iago we are presented the classic tale of Shakespeare's Othello from a different point of view. That of the tale's villain, Iago.
Many who have read the tale of Othello in literary classes and just because throughout the years have wondered what drove this seemingly honest man to turn into one of literature's greatest monsters. What drives a man to turn a tale of friendship, bravery and love into a tragedy of betrayal, jealousy and murder?
To be totally honest with you, fellow bookworms and dear readers, I've never asked these questions. To further my confession, I don't really care for Shakespeare... I'll give you a moment to collect yourselves. While I can appreciate his contributions to the worlds of art, literature and language I've never been passionately moved by any of his works. To be honest, I'm so ill versed on his works these days that I had to review Othello after I joined this tour and realized that the book wasn't based on some other Iago.
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed Galland's retelling of the tale. In fact, I found myself thinking about it in between readings, wondering how and why Iago would inevitably crack and become a devil. As I read, I found myself drawn to him; to his honest observations and musings, to his musical way with language. There was no doubt in my mind why the beautiful and clever Emilia fell in love with the witty man, the talented soldier who had never wanted to be a soldier.
And at the end of it all, when he fell down a man broken and alone, one betrayed by his friends and his own ambition, having warped his own honest nature into fooling himself with lies I couldn't help but feel the deepest sort of sorrow. His fall from grace broke my heart.
Galland's tale is magnificent and spellbinding. Somehow she manages to take one of the most hated characters of classical literature and humanize him; giving him a voice, emotions and a story. She turns him from a one dimensional villian into someone we can pity and feel sorrow for. As if that wasn't enough, she makes the bastard seductive and swoon worthy all while plunging you deep into the sights, sounds and feelings of 14th century Venice; a world of masks and silks and back stabbing.
I'd recommend this novel to fans and unfans of Shakespeare alike, as it needs no prerequisite and can be enjoyed as its own entity. Also, if you're a fan of historical fictions, intrigue, atmospheric novels, tragic romances or just enjoyable reading, you should give this one a shot.