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Lavinia

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,133947,369 (3.86)216
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.… (more)
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» See also 216 mentions

English (91)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (94)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Beautiful, rich writing brings the story to life. ( )
  mslibrarynerd | Jan 13, 2024 |
A slow, patient, magical retelling and reimagining of myths and mythical times. I loved the subtle, delicate way in which Le Guin wrote the characters and their world. There was also fiction seeping into the real world, shaping it, and vice versa, an idea that appeals to me.

P.S. I should probably read the Aeneid. I know the story, having somehow absorbed it from different sources. But Ancient Greece was my “first love”, so Roman authors never called to me in the same way Homer did. This was a mistake, I think. ( )
  Alexandra_book_life | Dec 15, 2023 |
Vlot leesbaar epos. Normaal niet mijn stijl, maar toch vlot doorgelezen. Voldoende inhoud, maar niet heel erg scifi, feministisch,… en al waar Le Guin bekend om staat. Ze herwerkt een oud epos tot leesbare roman. ( )
  AnkeL | Dec 4, 2023 |
Fascinating story giving life to a woman mentioned only in passing in Homer. ( )
  mykl-s | May 23, 2023 |
Lavinia, a Latin princess, has many suitors but she is not interested in any of them until Aeneas arrives from Troy.

Another woman from legend gets the chance to tell her own story, but she herself also reflects on whether she actually exists outside the story as told by Vergil. Enjoyable but if even the main character isn't sure whether she exists it's difficult to feel any emotional involvement in what's going on. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Sep 5, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (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 (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bresnahan, AlyssaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brock, CharlesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mata, ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennacchietti, NatasciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodotà, CostanzaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sheckels, JenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Surgers, MarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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 of full marriageable age, kept the great
household. Many from broad Latium and
all Ausonia came wooing her . . .
Dedication
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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