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Lavinia Paperback – April 10, 2009
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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. 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.
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"She never loses touch with her reverence for the immense what is."—Margaret Atwood
"Like all great writers of fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own."—Boston Globe
'There is no writer with an imagination as forceful and delicate as Le Guin's."—Grace Paley
About the Author
URSULA K. LE GUIN was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929, and passed away in Portland, Oregon, in 2018. She published over sixty books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translation. She was the recipient of a National Book Award, six Hugo and five Nebula awards, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
- Publisher : Mariner Books; First edition (April 10, 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0156033682
- ISBN-13 : 978-0156033688
- Reading age : 14 years and up
- Lexile measure : 960L
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.68 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #50,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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This is what Le Guin chose to do with what she may well have known was going to be her last novel. She took an important-but-minor character from Virgil's AENEID (query: as opposed to some other AENEID?) and told her story. Specifically, the woman fated to be Aeneas's wife and the ancestress of Romulus and Remus.
Told in her own voice, the story begins with Lavinia sighting the arrival at Latium of the ships bearing Aeneas and the remnants of his Trojan survivors. It moves backwards to her childhood; tells the final episodes of the AENEID from her point of view, then describes her life with Aeneas and after. I won't summarize beyond that.
Wolves, as if to foreshadow Romulus and Remus, play a recurring role in Lavinia's life. So do gods, shades, and oracles. (She knows from one such that she will have Aeneas only three years before he dies.)
Lavinia is a fascinating character, very much the daughter of her wise father and her mad mother. Her voice is vivid and clear, and explains just enough to make the story vivid and clear without bogging down in exposition.
I want to write more, but I can't. The book is too powerful, too emotionally powerful, for me to speak rationally of.
When I read Lavinia, I felt regal again. I could remember emotions I had at 18. I loved the flow of daily life thousand years before. I remembered a long forgotten me. I’m new to LeGuin, but I love the effort she went to writing a book now that brings back ancient love and life. She received help from the Penates I believe. Some of you Roman readers are laughing at my naïveté, but I’m sitting in a living room in the 21st century feeling in love with with an ancient king and good friends of a poetic beauty...
Reading it, I got elements of Earthsea, and Left Hand of Darkness, of The Dispossessed and her other Writings, at the same time she gave voice to a woman who was robbed of her own by the poets.
Having read the Aeneid is a help here, but Lavinia stands complete on its own, and it is a masterful book.
Perhaps her best ever, the book she always meant to create.
Top reviews from other countries
It would be so easy to make the priestess queen and her kindred over idealised as Pagan devotees of mother earth, ancestral values. Many sentimental stories, novels do that. It is avoided here because it is made clear how the tenderness of a conserving, earth centred code is also rigid with hierarchy and elaborate, endless ceremonials. The class that performs them is not critiqued for its theft of produce (wealth) from the people, which is the only weakness of the book, but it is implicitly there if you already know that analysis.
Women and men are balanced in a thoughtful way, without silly stereotypes either conservative or debased feminist. This is grown up gender.
The language is exquisitely well crafted, betraying the writer's many, many edits to sweat out the poetic gift of flow we receive, and the emotional process that bridges that different world and ours.
If you love to lose yourself in another kind of society, an old one, with its own truths, set in a world we only half know (no, one tenth know) then join this dream and enjoy it.
Style of writing is easily readable but unremarkable. Much like the storyline.