Synopses & Reviews
In The Aeneid
, Virgil'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 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 make her own destiny, and she tells us what Virgil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life.
Lavinia is a book of love and war, generous and austerely beautiful, from a writer working at the height of her powers.
"In the Aeneid, the only notable lines Virgil devotes to Aeneas' second wife, Lavinia, concern an omen: the day before Aeneus lands in Latinum, Lavinia's hair is veiled by a ghost fire, presaging war. Le Guin's masterful novel gives a voice to Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus and Queen Amata, who rule Latinum in the era before the founding of Rome. Amata lost her sons to a childhood sickness and has since become slightly mad. She is fixated on marrying Lavinia to Amata's nephew, Turnus, the king of neighboring Rutuli. It's a good match, and Turnus is handsome, but Lavinia is reluctant. Following the words of an oracle, King Latinus announces that Lavinia will marry Aeneas, a newly landed stranger from Troy; the news provokes Amata, the farmers of Latinum, and Turnus, who starts a civil war. Le Guin is famous for creating alternative worlds (as in Left Hand of Darkness), and she approaches Lavinia's world, from which Western civilization took its course, as unique and strange as any fantasy. It's a novel that deserves to be ranked with Robert Graves's I, Claudius." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Le Guin has researched this ancient world assiduously, and her measured, understated prose captures with equal skill the permutations of established ritual and ceremony and the sensations of the battlefield....Arguably her best novel, and an altogether worthy companion volume to one of the Western world's greatest stories." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] brilliant reimagining....As Le Guin's afterword acknowledges, this beautiful and moving novel is a love offering to one of the world's great poets, and former high-school Latin scholars may return to Virgil with a renewed appreciation. Highly recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"[Le Guin] has heard voices and channeled them in the language of Lavinia herself. And this voice has something wonderful and strange to tell us." Los Angeles Times
"Le Guin, a five-time Hugo and Nebula Awards winner who's a practiced hand at creating entire worlds in her science fiction and fantasy novels, combines that ability with a prodigious amount of research." Christian Science Monitor
In The Aeneid, Vergil's hero fights to claim the king's daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in this novel set in the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.
About the Author
Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. Over the course of her career she has published more than sixty books of fiction, fantasy, science fiction, children’s literature, poetry, drama, criticism, and translation, and is the multiple winner of the highest awards in several fields. Among her honors are a National Book Award, a PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, twenty-one Locus Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband.