Lavinia Hardcover – Apr 21 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. (Apr.)
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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
Top Customer Reviews
But although it started off slowly for me, in the end, I was deeply impressed by the book. It moved me, it intrigued me, and furthermore, the ending is truly one of most magnificent I have ever read. It is perfect, and it left me absolutely in tears because it was so beautiful and sad. (Yes, this is ultimately a sad book, but haunting and beautiful as well.)
I also found it fascinating to see this glimpse--albeit one from Le Guin's imagination, not necessarily from history--of how the people living in Italy prior to Rome's founding may have lived. This is not a time in history that you hear much about, because simply, not much is known about it. Le Guin created her own semi-mythological version of ancient Italy based mostly on Virgil's epic poem. She states in her afterword that the people of that time and place likely were not as sophisticated and advanced as she portrayed them, but that's all right. I like her version of ancient Italy, especially the religion, and I enjoyed spending time there.
Lavinia will be one of my most memorable reads of 2009. I highly recommend it to Le Guin fans, to anyone interested in ancient Roman history, or to admirers of Virgil.
Lavinia is the King's daughter who Aeneas fights to claim in Vergil's The Aeneid. Le Guin brings her alive.
Yes, I'd call it a historical romance, too and file it under chick lit (which I don't read by the way despite being a "chick").