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Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

Lavinia (2008)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,468727,667 (3.83)197
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  2. 10
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  3. 10
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    Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C. S. Lewis (casvelyn)
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Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
While I do love UKLG, this one just didn't do it for me. I got bored. I think she is way, way more into pre-Roman history than I am. I know she's not a plot-heavy person, she loves setting and everyday life. It's just this particular setting I found uninteresting. I think if you're into Classical Studies, you might like this.
What I did find really interesting about the book was Lavinia's relationship with the author, and the idea of fictional characters existing on some real level. As well I liked the idea of prophecies and oracles (and dreams, Le Guin loves her dreams) -- they're a big motif in Greek and Roman literature, and the idea of knowing what is going to happen in the future, but not how, is an interesting one that weighs heavily in this book.
The last few paragraphs of the book were excellent. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
Leave it to Le Guin to elevate fan fiction to high art. Lavinia, little more than a prop in Virgil's 'Aeneid' (though a necessary one as babies were going to be wanted), is allowed to voice her thoughts and piety and tell the story of her life and her Latium. At the same time, Lavinia is aware that she is a character in a larger story, granted existence by way of a few lines of text.

The writing is beautiful and Le Guin evokes a pre-Roman Italy that, while a little too sophisticated and clean for accuracy, represents the Latium that Virgil imagined. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
LeGuin doesn't fail to impress. We enter the life and culture of pre-Roman women, with its cycle of ceremonies and the attention paid to following one's destiny. For these people, to do an act that is against this inner directive is so unthinkable that the word for it, is never used. The phrases "living in balance" or "harmony with nature" are never used in this novel but this is, essentially, in my cultural terms, what Lavinia's life was about. In that sense, this is a thought-provoking and inspiring novel. We are brought back to the original meanings of words, of "awe" or "pagan" or "piety", and even of "Mars" yet "Lares" and "Penates" are never defined...presumably because we can look them up in any dictionary.
I only took the time to mark one quote, tho there were many that I might have. In this retelling of a piece of Vergil's poem, Lavinia is aware of her existence in the future being dependent on someone remembering her. "We are all contingent...I am a fleck of light on the surface of the sea, a glint of light from the evening star. I live in awe. If I never lived at all, yet I am a silent wing on the wind, a bodiless voice in the forest of Albunea" (P.68).
While I had a slow adjustment to understanding the beginning format of the novel, hampered by interrupted reading, the beauty of the writing captivated me. ( )
  juniperSun | Feb 26, 2018 |
As a child, I read Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, which I loved for its wizards and fantasy (I hope to reread it soon). In my early twenties, I read her Left Hand of Darkness, which was one of the first books that made me think seriously about gender. And now I’ve turned to what I thought would be a comparatively straightforward historical novel: her book about Lavinia, princess of Latium, who becomes the wife of Aeneas. But Le Guin is never simple. Her Lavinia is a bright, demanding person: full of questions. She probes at the limitations of the way she has been preserved for posterity, rebelling against the strictures of a poem in which she doesn’t even get to speak. Playful, intelligent and just a little bit angry, this novel reimagines one of the great epics of the Western tradition. Le Guin, and Lavinia, take Virgil to task for his omissions but this isn’t just a scolding. It’s also a great love letter from one author to another: a tribute to the power of story-telling, which can give the figures of the past a voice...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2017/10/04/lavinia-ursula-le-guin/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Feb 1, 2018 |
Written in the vein of C. S. Lewis' 'Till We Have Faces; this is the story of Aeneas told by one of the least discussed of Virgil's characters. It's a decent story, but not the most interesting of LeGuin's books. There isn't much growth in any of the characters. The good guys remain stalwart and the bad guys never change. One character wobbles a little, but not much. ( )
  Kitty.Cunningham | Jul 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
Lavinia is a historical novel set in mythical antiquity, Bronze Age Italy in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Le Guin has taken a (very) minor character from Virgil’s epic The Aeneid - in the poem Aeneas’s last wife Lavinia has no line of dialogue whatsoever - and given her voice. And a powerful and seemingly authentic voice too. The landscape, homes, religion, politicking, people and battles are all convincingly portrayed. When reading this you feel as if you are there, immersed in prehistory. Even the scenes in the place of oracles where Lavinia talks to the apparition she knows only as the poet - she could merely be dreaming of course - have the stamp of authority. At any rate Lavinia believes in him, and his revelations are borne out by events. There is, too, enough of a body count - foretold by the poet in a long, disturbing list - to satisfy the bloodthirsty.

For Lavinia starts a war. Not by allowing herself to be taken by men, she says (in a beautifully understated inference to the much more famous Helen) but instead by choosing one for herself. I quibble slightly at who actually chooses Aeneas for Lavinia; she is swayed not only by the lack of suitability of the other candidates for her hand but also by her conversations with the poet. Otherwise she is a strong decisive character, who stands up to both her father, the King Latinus, and mother, Amata, and later to Ascanius, Aeneas’s son by his previous marriage.

Given the book’s context the perennial follies of men are an unsurprising theme of Lavinia, the character and the novel.

Despite its setting the book was on the short list for the BSFA Award for best novel of 2009, which on the face of it is baffling, even if Le Guin is a stalwart of the genres of SF and fantasy. I suppose its proposers could argue that since in the book Lavinia speaks with the ghost of a poet not yet born in her time there is an element of fantasy present. (Le Guin uses the spelling Vergil. I know his Latin name was Vergilius but in my youth the poem was always known as Virgil’s Aeneid.) True too, the past is always a different country. Fictionally it takes as much imagination to invest it with verisimilitude as it does to describe an as yet unrealised (SF) future. Except - sometimes - you can research the past.

This is an admirably realised and executed novel, though, whichever genre you wish to pigeon-hole it with.

Or you could say, as I do, that it is simply an excellent novel, full stop.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bresnahan, AlyssaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheckels, JenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
VirgilAuthor of source materialsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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sola domum et tantas servabat filia sedes,
iam matura viro, iam plenis nubilis annis.
multi illam magno e Latio totaque petebant
Ausonia . . .

A single daughter, now ripe for a man,
now full of marriageable age, kept the great
household. Many from broad Latium and
all Ausonia came wooing her . . .
First words
I went to the salt beds by the mouth of the river in the May of my nineteenth year, to get salt for the sacred meal.
We are all contingent. Resentment is foolish and ungenerous, and even anger is inadequate. I am a fleck of light on the surface of the sea, a glint of light from the evening star. I live in awe.
I know who I was, I can tell you who I may have been, but I am, now, only in this line of words I write.
Like Spartan Helen, I caused a war. She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her. I caused mine because I wouldn't be given, wouldn't be taken, but chose my man and my fate. The man was famous, the fate obscure; not a bad balance.
But then I think no, it has nothing to do with being dead, it's not death that allows us to understand one another, but poetry.
Not even a poet can speak the whole truth.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151014248, Hardcover)

In a richly imagined, beautiful new novel, an acclaimed writer gives an epic heroine her voice

In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.

Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner—that she will be the cause of a bitter war—and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands. And so she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life.

Lavinia is a book of passion and war, generous and austerely beautiful, from a writer working at the height of her powers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In The Aeneid, Vergil's hero fights to claim the king's daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word in the poem. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes the reader to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.--From amazon.com.… (more)

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