Too bad the switch from empathetic protagonist into villain is not quite believable, because until then Iago and Emilia are...

I, IAGO

Galland (Crossed, 2008, etc.) takes on one of literature’s greatest villains and tries to make him sympathetic.

For a large part of the novel—until the introduction of Othello when events from Shakespeare’s play take over—she succeeds. As the fifth son of a Venetian silk merchant, Iago has limited prospects. His precociousness and his growing reputation for blunt honesty don’t help in a society where insipid, phony etiquette is prized if not required. He spends his childhood getting into mild scrapes with his poorer, weaker friend Roderigo, whom he is always protecting, before his father enrolls him in the military. There he finds himself and excels. He meets Emilia at a Venetian masked ball and falls in love with her wit and intelligence even before he learns she is beautiful. Despite Iago’s bouts of jealousy, theirs is a marriage of soul mates. Emilia remains his (and the novel’s) heart and conscience to the end. Meanwhile the Moor Othello has been named General by the Venetian senate. When Othello and Iago meet at a ball, they immediately connect, recognizing that they are both outsiders who don’t really want to fit into society, Iago for his mouth and Othello for his black skin. Othello makes Iago his ensign, an important promotion. After the battle at Rhodes, Othello suffers an epileptic fit and Iago covers for him. So when Othello falls for Desdemona, Iago is understandably hurt and jealous that he is left out of the loop as the romance develops with Emilia’s help. Then an alcoholic, womanizing fop from Florence shows up; Cassio lacks Iago’s military skills but because he carries secret letters between the general and Desdemona he gets the lieutenancy that should go to Iago. Resentment turns the love Iago has felt for Othello into hate. Although Iago doesn’t really mean to kill anyone, he’s not good at intrigue. Familiar Shakespearean tragedy ensues.

Too bad the switch from empathetic protagonist into villain is not quite believable, because until then Iago and Emilia are magic. 

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-212687-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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